Facebook adds two-factor authentication, other new security features
Facebook enhances security of the site with two-factor authentication, improved HTTPS. But is it enough for security pros?
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
April 20, 2011 — CSO —
Just a day after security firm Sophos publicly took Facebook to task for lacking important security features, the social network has added some new security elements in what it says is an effort to "make Facebook a more trusted environment ."
In a blog post this week, Arturo Bejar, a director of engineering with Facebook, explained the new upgrades. The most noteworthy feature in the announcement is the introduction of two-factor authentication. According to the blog post, users who turn on the new feature will be asked to enter a code anytime the user tries to log into Facebook from a new device.
Bejar also said the network was "improving" on its already introduced HTTPS feature, which was announced in January.
Also see: 10 security reasons to quit Facebook
"We're improving HTTPS so if you start using a non-HTTPS application on Facebook, we automatically switch your session back to HTTPS when you're finished," explained Bejar.
However, some security professionals, such as Sophos' Graham Cluley, argue HTTPS should be on all the time. In his open letter to Facebook, he noted the feature is turned off by default, which means many users are not even aware that it is possible to enable it.
"Worse, you only commit to provide a secure connection 'whenever possible,'" Cluley said."Facebook should enforce a secure connection all the time, by default. Without this protection, your users are at risk of losing personal information to hackers. "
The other new features were announced last month at a White House conference on bullying prevention and address many of the concerns and issues around teen use of the network. They include a newly-redesigned Family Safety Center where parents and teens can find articles and videos on safety and privacy. Facebook will also be providing a free, downloadable guide for teachers, written by safety experts Linda Fogg Phillips, B.J. Fogg and Derek Baird.
Lastly, Facebook has added a new social reporting tool that allows people to notify a member of their community, in addition to Facebook, when they see something they don't like.
"Safety and child psychology experts tell us that online issues are frequently a reflection of what is happening offline." Bejar said. "By encouraging people to seek help from friends, we hope that many of these situations can be resolved face to face. The impact has been encouraging, and we're now expanding social reporting to other major sections of Facebook, including Profiles, Pages and Groups."
Read more about data protection in CSOonline's Data Protection section.
Other stories by Joan Goodchild