REPORT: One in Five Facebook Users Encounter Malware

One in five Facebook users encounters malware, says a report by security vendor BitDefender.

If anything says Facebook has grown up, it’s security statistics like the latest eye opener from Bit Defender: One in five Facebook users encounters malware, CNET has reported.

That finding comes from BitDefender’s Safego application, and security wonks would have you believe that understates the problem. The data doesn’t include the contents of private, direct messages between Facebook users. Messaging is like a frontier for security problems, so long as there are new features and others in development.

BitDefender arrived at the one-in-five figure based on analysis of the news feeds read by the 14,000 folks who have already installed Safego security software on Facebook. I would see more cause for alarm if the statistic referred to something more specific or pernicious like viruses. The category of malware includes a host of things that won’t seriously damage your computer — the stuff invades your privacy and occupies techie real estate, but won’t likely crash your system all on its own.

A survey sample of 14,000 would seem representative in many other contexts, but compare that to the more than half a billion people now on Facebook, and the roughly 50 percent of them who log on daily. If the social network had full ownership of security, then we would see more conclusive findings about the true extent of malware and related problems.

Any set of statistics coming from a security company has marketing motivation. Arm yourself with the vendor’s latest wares or fall victim to the malady du jour. On the other hand, Facebook has a policy of trying to avoid negative news headlines, so the company might not want to let the public know about system-wide problems. The company might opt to quickly nip the glitch in the bud and then put out a press release after the fact, describing the whole thing as an upgrade.

Readers, what do you think about this latest warning of malware rearing its ugly head in 20 percent of Facebook users’ experiences on the social network? What solutions would best deal with the problem?