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Perimeter

Guest Blog // Selected Security Content Provided By Sophos
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10/14/2010
08:45 AM
Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
Security Insights
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Facebook, Why Don't You Learn A Security Lesson From Apple?

It seems like every day thousands of Facebook users fall into the trap of permitting malicious third-party apps to compromise their accounts.

It seems like every day thousands of Facebook users fall into the trap of permitting malicious third-party apps to compromise their accounts.As alluring messages whirl around the site, spreading virally, more and more users are tempted into approving applications -- even though they have no clue about what they intend to do, or even who wrote them.

Dislike button scam on Facebook

So many Facebookers have fallen into the trap of permitting unknown apps to peruse their profiles, scoop up details of their friends, and even email them directly -- all for the promise of some salacious content, an "amusing" video, or new functionality like the mythical "dislike" button.

Do you really want to give the rogue application permission to access your Facebook profile?

Facebook says it requires developers to verify their accounts by confirming their mobile phone numbers or credit card details; after that you're free to write whatever applications you like.

Of course, it's not very hard for cybercriminals to get their hands on a credit card or a pay-as-you-go mobile phone number. And so there's hardly anything stopping scammers writing rogue apps that point to revenue-generating surveys, steal personal information, direct users' Web browsers to malicious sites, or spam from your account.

Create application

So it's up to the user to try to make sensible decisions about what third-party apps they install on Facebook. Unfortunately, they've proved themselves very poor at making such judgments.

But is there a better way? What if Facebook followed the example of Apple, which successfully built a "walled garden" around their iPhone, meaning only approved apps could be installed on its smartphones.

Although the strict rules on the iPhone have plenty of critics, it can't be argued with from the security point of view. After all, when did you last hear of a malicious app on a non-jailbroken iPhone?

Is it time that Facebook put in place a compulsory verification system for apps? Let me know your thoughts in this quick poll:

Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his award-winning other blog on the Sophos website, you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.

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