Facebook's €8.5bn virus protection scheme
Facebook’s 350 million "unsuspecting" users are to be offered protection from viruses in an unprecedented multi-billion euro deal to clamp down on cyber hacking.
Under the scheme, the social networking site’s users whose accounts are hacked will be required to cleanse their computers of viruses before they can return to the online community.
More than €8.4bn worth of free software will be distributed to Facebook users in Britain, United States, Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
Other countries will be added to the scheme, which initially involves giving the site’s users a free six-month subscription to software from McAfee, the computer security firm, over the next three months.
Once the trial is over users would be offered an, as yet unspecified, discount for other “Internet Security Suite software”, the companies said.
The global deal, which involves McAfee security software, worth over €25, follows a rise in malicious software, or malware, targeting users.
The viruses are designed to rapidly spread across the site’s global network, hijack people’s computers, before it sends out messages to all their friends encouraging them to visit websites, where they are in turn attacked.
Previously, Facebook simply reset passwords of members whose accounts were hacked, phished, or were victims of other “cyber-mischief”.
It had also advised members have "malware" purged from their computers.
McAfee said it had also developed a free tool for Facebook users to clean their hard drives in the event of a hacking incident and would also be providing content for Facebook's security home page.
A blog on the site has also been created educating users on hacking and other cyber-related incidents.
According to recent research, almost half of internet users do not have adequate virus protection, and more than three in four fail to regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes.
Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy described it as an “unprecedented step towards making the entire Internet more secure and reducing the possibility of threats being brought onto our service by unsuspecting users”
“Keeping the Internet secure requires that users, security vendors and Internet companies all work together,” he said.
Facebook, which announced the deal with McAfee after a competitive review process, said it will not share in any revenue the security firm security software or services.