Facebook Beefs Up Security With Antivirus Marketplace Full Of Free Software

As Facebook pushes ever closer to one billion users, one of the biggest issues it has faced has been backlash from consumers around the areas of privacy and security. Today, the social network is taking two steps in an effort to improve its image around that area — and potentially positioning itself as a software reseller in the process.

It is partnering with Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Norton/Symantec to enhance its own URL blacklisting system; and it is launching a new service, the Antivirus Marketplace, with these five companies, to offer a selection of antivirus software to protect users even further. That software will be free of charge for the first six months of use.

“We believe that arming our users with anti-virus software will help empower them to stay safe no matter where they are on the web,” the company said in a blog post announcing the news. The AV Marketplace will also be available as a link within the Facebook Security section of the site.

From today, Facebook users will have the option of downloading full versions of antivirus software from these five companies, under free six month trials. After that, users will have to buy the software, an example of Facebook facilitating the sale of computer software to its users. When you explore individual products from the line-up, there is a button to download the software, and another, currently darkened out, for “other products,” so there may be plans to add more software to the line-up.

Meanwhile, Facebook says that its URL blacklist system — the one where a site may end up when a user reports it as “abusive or spammy” — already scans trillions of clicks per day. Now that system will be augmented by blacklist databases from these five companies.

Today’s news is another move in Facebook’s evolution to improve the experience that people have through the social network, and is part of a continuing trend for the company to turn to third-parties to do this: that not only lets Facebook choose best-of-breed applications, but also allows for Facebook to share in some of the other company’s brand credibility in this area.

Among past deals, Facebook partnered with Websense in October 2011 to develop a system that checked a link when a user clicked on it to determine whether or not it’s safe. If it’s not, a message is displayed warning the user that the link is potentially harmful and suggests you return to the previous page.

Facebook also says that the five companies will now be contributing blog posts to its Security Blog in the form of information about keeping their data safe and other relevant news about the world of social media security.

I personally have been reading Sophos’ thoughts in that area for a while now on its Naked Security blog — and it has been pretty outspoken in highlighting some of the security issues that come up for Facebook users. It will be interesting to see whether any of that kind of content makes its way to Facebook itself.