NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Facebook connects close to a billion people around the world, so it’s no surprise that it has become a target for scammers looking to spread their malware and malicious links. While Facebook has long fought a sometimes losing battle to keep the site free of scams, there are hints that its initial public offering will bring a renewed focus on protecting users from those security threats.
“Now it will have to continually alert the public about anything that could have a material impact on its profitability… The good news is the additional oversight and pressure should result in a safer, more secure and privacy-aware Facebook,” writes Sophos security researcher Chester Wisniewski on the security firm’s blog.
In its 202-page S-1 filing Wednesday, the social network lists numerous potential threats to its business, including a shrinking user base, loss of advertisers, government censorship abroad, unfavorable media coverage and even the potential for a breakdown of its lucrative relationship with social gaming company Zynga. Among those risk factors, one in particular stood out: “Computer malware, viruses, hacking and phishing attacks, and spamming could harm our business and results of operations.”
The company concedes in its filing that malware attacks have taken place in the past, will likely take place again, and could harm both the company’s systems and its standing with users in the future.
“Any failure to maintain performance, reliability, security, and availability of our products and technical infrastructure to the satisfaction of our users may harm our reputation and our ability to retain existing users and attract new users,” reads the filing. “In addition, spammers attempt to use our products to send targeted and untargeted spam messages to users, which may embarrass or annoy users and make Facebook less user-friendly.”
Facebook even concedes that it can’t defend against all spammers. Still, it’s heartening to see Facebook acknowledge the problem, and could suggest that the new scrutiny that comes with being a publicly-traded company could encourage it to take the problem more seriously.
Indeed, there are signs that Facebook was already starting to get tougher on security threats in the months leading up to the IPO announcement. Back in October, network security firm Websense announced a partnership with Facebook to provide a system to warn users when they are about to follow a malicious link. And Facebook continues to file lawsuits against various marketing firms that it accuses of spamming users.
While such actions made good business sense even for a private company, Facebook’s new public face means that it’s under more pressure than ever to keep its users safe and secure.