Facebook users will now get a warning message when they click links that access harmful sites.
PHOTO: Getty Images
Facebook users will now get a warning message when they click links that access harmful sites.

Story highlights

Facebook adds security feature to warn users about clicking on harmful links

Users will get a pop-up message when they try to access a site that may be hazardous

WebSense says viruses have increased due to workplace social-media use

Scammers post links on Facebook in an effort to steal users' personal information

(CNN) —  

Facebook is ramping up the fight against those annoying and potentially harmful scam attacks.

The site is teaming up with Websense, a San Diego, California-based Internet security firm, to warn users when they’re about to leave Facebook for a site that might be trying to steal their personal data.

Starting today, any link users click on Facebook will be checked against Websense’s database of sites that might contain malware or be used for “phishing” of the user’s credit card or other personal information.

If a site shows up on the list, a page will pop up warning users and asking them whether they’d like to go back, get more information or proceed at their own risk.

“A platform as popular as Facebook is naturally a target for attackers,” Websense wrote on its blog. “We have been working with Facebook and their security teams for a number of years in order to keep their users safe, but now we have integrated directly into the platform for an unprecedented security combination.”

In a recent survey by Websense of 4,640 technology and security professionals, 52 percent said their businesses have experienced an increase in viruses and malware attacks because of employees’ use of social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Twenty-three percent said they hadn’t seen an increase, and 25 percent said they weren’t sure.

With a user base of some 800 million users, Facebook is fertile hunting ground for scammers and hackers. Often, users who click bad links will be infected with malware that causes them to, in turn, share the bad link with their friends.

A common scammer technique is to post what appears to be an outrageous or racy link. When someone clicks the link, they are asked to enter their Facebook log-in information again to see the video or other post – thus giving that info to the hackers.

“By providing real-time protection from malware, spyware, inappropriate content, data leaks, and spam, we make it safe for people and businesses to use the web,” said Websense chief technology officer Dan Hubbard.

The announcement comes at the beginning of what’s being called National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Facebook will be participating in a cybersecurity event Friday in conjunction with government and business officials in Michigan.