Facebook Tests Security Features

Facebook is testing security features that boost password protection for third-party applications and make it easier to reactivate accounts hijacked by hackers.

Facebook unveiled App Passwords and Trusted Friends Wednesday, saying they would be testing the features over the ’coming weeks.’ The announcement is the latest effort by Facebook to improve safety on the site, which is a favorite target of cyber-criminals looking to dupe the social network’s 800 million users worldwide.

Trusted Friends is like giving a bosom buddy the key to your house in case you get locked out. A user selects three to five friends that Facebook will send a secret code to pass along, if the account holder can’t get into the site. This sometimes happens when a hacker hijacks someone’s Facebook account and changes the password.

App Passwords provides a higher level of security for logging in to third-party applications. A growing number of Web applications allow people to log in using their Facebook credentials. As an alternative, a unique password can be generated by going to Account Settings, then the Security tab and finally to the App Passwords section. Entering an e-mail address and the Facebook-generated password should get a person into the app. The password doesn’t have to be remembered, because Facebook can generate it anytime.

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Facebook announced the features the same day a security researcher reported a flaw that makes it possible to send a message on Facebook with an executable file attached. Such malware is often sent by cyber-criminals attempting to secretly gain control of people’s PCs.

Nathan Power, director of a professional group called the Ohio Information Security Forum, discovered the workaround for Facebook’s security mechanism that prevents sending executables.

Power reported the vulnerability to Facebook September 30, and said the vendor acknowledged the flaw Wednesday.