Facebook Partners with Web of Trust to Protect Users From Malicious Outbound Links

Web of Trust, a crowd-sourced website reputation rating service, has partnered with Facebook to protect user from clicking malicious outbound links on the social network. When users click a link to a site with a poor reputation rating, Facebook will show a warning message.

The Web of Trust partnership should help reduce the risk of phishing, spam and scams on Facebook, improving security, which has been a public relations problem through the years for the social network.

With a 20 million user community and 31 million sites rated, Web of Trust will protect users in real-time, rather than focusing on preventive education like some other risk-abatement programs.

In addition to phishing and scams, Web of Trust will increase protection from unscrupulous ecommerce sites and reduce the likelihood that younger users will click through links on Facebook to adult content.

When users click a URL on Facebook, the social network will scan the site to see if it has been flagged by Web of Trust. If so, users will see a message indicating that the site “has been classified as potentially abusive.” A large button encourages users to “Return to previous page” or they can click a small link to ignore the warning and continue to the site.

Users can download the Web of Trust browser add-on to rate sites and help protect fellow web citizens. If more Facebook users immediately used Facebook’s own flagging system or that of Web of Trust, spammy sites that spread through the news feed via phished accounts could be blocked more quickly.

To date, Facebook has worked to protect users by offering educational resources such as the Safety Center, asking users to provide information to assist with account retrieval in case they are hacked, and added security features such as account owner and login verification. It also recently extended its partnership with McAfee to eradicate worms such as Koobface through the Roadblock feature and provide a free subscription to anti-virus software.

Web of Trust’s reputation model may work well for long-existing risks, but new malicious sites that pop up might not be rated before they threaten Facebook users. Facebook’s security team and internal automated systems for alerting users to malicious links will continue protect users from suspicious outbound links, but now they’ll be augmented with the power of Web of Trust’s crowd.

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