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Facebook looks to San Diego's Websense to improve security

October 3, 2011 | 10:04 am

Facebook SecurityAlert Websense

Starting today, each time you click an outbound link on Facebook, San Diego's Websense will visit that site first, checking to see if it poses a security threat before letting you leave the world's largest social network.

The move is one that seeks to improve security measures online for Facebook's more than 800 million users and makes use of technology that has taken more than a year to develop, said Charles Renert, a senior director of security research at Websense.

Once you select a link, Websense's security tools kick into action, visiting the outside website and running a series of scans and tests seeking out botnets, malware, phishing programs, trojans and other viruses.

If Websense identifies any such harmful material on the other side, Facebook then serves up a familiar-looking warning page that reads "Security Alert: This Link May Not Be Safe," which now also features a Websense logo.

The page gives users the option to either return to the previous page they visited or to ignore the warning and continue to the potentially dangerous website. The warning page also offers up a link to more information on why Websense identifies the link as a harmful one.

Websense's technology (which it calls ThreatSeeker Cloud) isn't a Facebook app in the traditional sense and won't have access to a user's name, date of birth, wall, networks, friends list or any other personal or public information shared on the site, Renert said.

"We get no user information from Facebook," he said. "The security transactions between Facebook and Websense are all anonymized and focused specifically on checking out the security of links shared on Facebook."


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles