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Facebook account-protection push opts for scare tactics

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Facebook has quietly begun testing new account-protection features but the scary wording of prompts to try out the technology might easily be mistaken for a sophisticated phishing attack.

Users of the social network might be offered the protection via an ad in the side panel which reads: "Your account protection is very low - increase protection". Clicking through the ad leads to a page on Facebook that encourages users to submit a second email address and a phone number. In some cases it also asks users to change their security question.

The phone number is requested even if users have previously deleted this information from their profile, making it appear like a push to get users to add their phone numbers on the basis that this will speed account recovery if something goes wrong.

Gmail recently introduced a similar procedure for webmail account recovery, and the basic approach is fair enough, though some will be understandably wary of handing over their phone number to either Gmail or Facebook.

It's far easier to fault Facebook for the vague and scaremongery warning that comes with the account protection push. Saying to users "Your account protection is very low - increase protection" mimics the approach of phishing scams, which are certainly not unknown on Facebook. Trend Micro warned of one such phishing scam only earlier this week.

A Reg staffer was confronted by the account protection push earlier this week and it certainly wasn't immediately obvious – to us or to the security firms we spoke with – that the approach was legitimate. The Allfacebook blog reported the roll-out of the "improved" account protection approach on Tuesday, but its report concentrated on the "change of security question" issue.

We asked Facebook to comment on the tactics of its account protection campaign but had yet to hear back from the dominant social network at the time of going to press. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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