Now Available: Anti-Virus for Your Facebook News Feed

Earlier this week we asked if Facebook had grown to the point that it needed its own anti-malware service and – would you look at this! – now it has one. Well, sort of.

The well-known security company Symantec has released an anti-malware service for Facebook which protects you from dangerous links posted to your News Feed. And it comes to you by way of a free Facebook application called “Norton Safe Web.”

Keeping Your News Feed Malware-Free

Apparently, this News Feed-scanning anti-virus application was released into beta back in mid-April, but we’re just now hearing of it thanks to the eagle-eyed bloggers over at All Facebook.

Norton’s free software functions the same way any other Facebook application does. You click to give it access to your profile and then Norton Safe Web scans your News Feed for malicious URLs. It even scans inside shortened links from services like bit.ly or tinyURL. The results of the scan can then be shared with your friends from the application itself – a handy feature for warning others of any dangers on your Wall or theirs.

Some Issues

Unfortunately, when testing it ourselves we noticed a few issues.

  • When using Google Chrome to perform the scan, we had to refresh the page manually to see the scan results. For some reason, the initial result was a blank page.
  • For whatever reason, the app was unable to scan a couple URLs and simply marked them as “untested.”
  • The app only checks for URLs posted within the past 24 hours.
  • And finally – and this is perhaps the most important of all – the software does not run automatically. That means anytime you want to test the safety of the links in your News Feed, you have to launch the app and run a scan. Manually.

A Better Option? Defensio

While the first few issues are minor complaints (the Chrome bug may have been on our end, after all), this last item is critical and a huge miss on Symantec’s part.

And it’s not an issue of Facebook not allowing an app to run automatically in the background, either.

For example, earlier this year, we looked a Defensio 2.0, one of the first-ever security suites for Facebook. The application checks for malicious files, links and scripts as well as for profanity and other unwanted content that’s posted to your Facebook Wall. After you configure the level of protection you want, Defensio runs in the background, keeping an eye on your profile.

When and if it finds some questionable content, it can automatically block it for you and send you an alert via email. I’ve personally been using it since January and it has sent me updates on more than a few occasions, warning me of potentially dangerous links or unwanted content.

Not only does the app keep you safe from malware, it can help you keep your Facebook profile more “professional” as you can block URLs by category in order to keep links and posts about gambling, sex, drugs, racism and hate, or adult material from ever being posted in the first place. (If you have any friends who still think being tasteless is incredibly funny, you’ll appreciate this sort of help.)

Norton, however, falls far short of what Defensio provides today. Perhaps that’s because Norton’s app is a freebie for consumers while Defensio is aimed more towards companies and brands maintaining business-related Facebook pages. However, Defensio has a free option for consumers and it protects any Facebook page that isn’t used for commercial purposes. 

Norton should not only offer the app for free, as it does now, but it should automate the scans. Facebook users can’t even stop long enough to concern themselves with their privacy settings, so asking them to run regular, manual scans of their News Feed is somewhat ridiculous. 

Perhaps an automation functionality will arrive in a newer version. (We asked Norton on their Facebook Wall, let’s see if they respond.) In the meantime, it’s better than nothing. And if you come across a questionable link, it’s definitely worth the scan.

You can install Norton Safe Web for Facebook here: apps.facebook.com/nortonsafeweb. Defensio can be installed here: defensio.com/signup.

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