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Stats from social networking safety apps suggest that one in five items on the news feeds of Facebook users lead to malicious content.

More than three in five (60 per cent) of these attacks come from notifications generated by malicious third-party applications on Facebook's developer platform, according to Romanian-based net security firm BitDefender.

BitDefender's stats comes from users of safego, a free application that scans the user’s wall, message inbox and comments for malicious content, which was released at the end of October. Around 14,000 Facebook users have downloaded safego, with the application scanning over 17 million Facebook posts to date.

Rogue applications commonly claim to offer functionality not supported by Facebook, such as monitoring who has viewed your profile (21.5 per cent of the total); promise bonus items in Facebook games such as Farmville (15.4 per cent); falsely punt bonus features such as a "dislike" button (11.2 per cent); or pose as social network versions of popular games such as Super Mario (7.1 per cent); among other ruses.

Threats that have nothing to do with rogue applications include worms such as Koobface (responsible for 4.6 per cent of all malicious posts) and survey scams, typically falsely promoted as a chance to view some exclusive, newsworthy or titillating content.

BitDefender isn't the only security firm to offer free security ad ons for Facebook to consumers. Websense's Defensio tool is available at no charge to home users and for a small fee to corporates. The tool, which has been available for around a year, moved out of beta in early October with the release of Defensio 2.0.

Stats from Defensio tell a broadly similar to figures from users of BitDefender's tool. "Based on what we see about 40 per cent of all status updates contain a URL and out of those, about 10 per cent are spam or malicious," Patrik Runald, senior manager for security research at Websense, told El Reg. ®

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