Facebook rolls out Websense malware link scanning

Facebook has partnered with security firm Websense to launch a system that scans links on the social network to protect users from malware and malicious websites.

The system will scan links each time a user clicks on them to determine if they're safe, and displays a message warning users of any potentially harmful sites, along with information on why the link has been flagged as suspicious. A prominent 'Return to previous page' button allows users to rethink any potentially hazardous move.

The social network has become a magnet for scammers and cyber criminals, who have regularly exploited users' curiosity via social engineering techniques to persuade them to click on links to harmful content.

Facebook will begin rolling out the system to its 800 million users from today. Powered by Websense's 'ThreatSeeker Cloud' technology, the service uses its Advanced Classification Engine (ACE) to flag up known and potential threats - including those from shortened URLs. Websense began filtering content from truncated web addresses after a partnership with URL shortener service bit.ly in 2009.

Websense already supplies a Facebook app called Defensio that enables users to control the types of content that can be posted to their walls, including the option to filter items such as sex and drug-related content.

In addition to Websense's new link-scanning system, Facebook users will continue to be protected by Web of Trust, a crowdsourced service that relies on users to report suspicious links.