Facebook has released several new security features designed to thwart unauthorized logins, cross-site scripting, and clickjacking that trick users into sharing spam to the news feed. Login approvals require suspicious logins to be confirmed with a code texted to a user’s phone, while self-XSS and clickjacking protection warns users and requires them to confirm their actions when pasting links into their browser or clicking suspicious Like buttons.
These protections should reduce the prevalence of hijacked accounts and highly visible spam in the news feed that perpetuate the public perception of Facebook as less safe than the rest of the internet.
Facebook’s latest internal security efforts were announced alongside a new partnership with Web of Trust, a a crowd-sourced website reputation rating service that will be used to power alerts to Facebook users when they click malicious outbound links. Facebook has previously concentrated on improving security through user education and login protection features such as remote session logout and one-time passwords.
Now Facebook is rolling out the two-factor authentication it announced last month. Users can visit Account -> Account Settings -> Settings -> Account Security to enable the feature, which will require them to verify their phone number. Once enabled, any time someone attempts to login to the account through a new or unrecognized device, they’ll have to enter a code sent to their phone via SMS. Users will also be notified the next time the successfully login of any suspicious attempts thwarted by the login approvals feature.
Users could be temporarily locked out of their account if they have Login Approvals in the unlikely event that both their phone and their approved Facebook login device were lost or stolen. Still, the feature offers a strong additional layer of security for those who opt in to it. It can also serve to protect users who may share their password with a loved one for use on their regular login device, but who don’t want those people to access their account from elsewhere.
Clickjacking refers to when a malicious website conceals an active link beneath an image or other disguise to fool a user into clicking a link they didn’t intend to. In the case of Facebook, malicious sites sometimes conceal Like buttons beneath video players or appealing offers, leading users to inadvertently share the spam site to the news feed, drawing in more users to the scam.
Facebook already has automated systems designed to identify and disable uses of the Like button for clickjack, as well as block or remove outbound links to clickjacking sites. Now Facebook as added additional protection against the tactic by requiring users to confirm they wanted to click a Like button that is suspected to be part of a clickjacking scheme. The Like won’t go through and stories won’t be published to the news feed unless the user confirms.
This feature could cut down on one of the most prominent Facebook security threats as of late, which has spread through links that promise videos of racy or gruesome content.
Self-cross site scripting is a security threat in which a spam news feed story, wall posts, or Message asks users to copy malicious code into their browser, thereby causing a hacker’s message to be posted to additional friends. These threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated over the years (if you want to get deeper into the topic, be sure to check out security researcher Joey Tyson’s Social Hacking blog).
The new security features detects when users attempt to paste malicious code into their browser, displays an alert explaining why the practice of copying code into a browser is dangerous, and prevents the code from being run.
By mixing education in with technical security features, Facebook can protect users now and teach them to protect themselves in the future.