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October 09, 2012

MyPageKeeper Flags 97 Percent of Facebook Spam and Socware

By David Gitonga, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Are you constantly having problems with Facebook spam? A recent four-month experiment conducted by University of California computer engineering professors and students may provide the solution to this problem. A free application, MyPageKeeper, was able to successfully flag 97 percent of social malware or socware with only a 0.005 percent false flag.

The application was found to be far quicker taking an average of 0.0046 seconds compared to the 1.9 seconds that it takes a traditional website crawler to locate similar malware. The team introduced the term “socware”, which describes the combination of social malware and parasitic behavior associated with these kinds of nuisances.

Image via Shutterstock

Speaking on the success of the new application, assistant professor at UC Riverside for computer science and engineering, Harsha V. Madhayastha, said that the application is “the perfect recipe for socware detection to be viable at scale: high accuracy, fast, and cheap.”

Madhayastha conducted the research together with Michalis Faloutsos, who is also a professor of computer science and engineering at the university. Two Ph.D students, Sazzadur Rahman and Ting-Kai Huang, were also part of the development team. Rahman outlined the findings of the research at the recent USENIX Security Symposium, 2012.

The four-month experiment included an analysis of over 40 million posts that included 12,000 people with the MyPageKeeper installed. It was discovered that 49 percent of the users were exposed to at least one socware over the four-month duration. According to Faloutsos, who has over 15 years experience in Web security, Facebook (News - Alert) has in many ways replaced e-mail and websites. He believes that “hackers are following that same path and we need new applications like MyPageKeeper to stop them.”

MyPageKeeper works by continuously scanning subscribed users’ walls and news feeds, identifying socware posts and alerting users in the process. The researchers are considering adding the ability to remove malicious posts automatically in the future. With Facebook malware being hosted and enabled by Facebook itself, a classic parasitic kind of behavior, the researchers expect that Facebook will need to do more curb the spread of socware.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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