Facebook spam remains a problem for users, as statistics show that a fifth of posts have malicious content

More than three-quarters of Facebook users think that there is a problem with spam on the site.

A survey by F-Secure found that 78 per cent think that spam is a problem on the site, while 49 per cent said that they frequently see something in their news feed that they consider to be suspicious.

Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, believed that despite recent action to remove some profiles, there are more steps that Facebook can take to remove the fake profiles that produce more and more spam.

He said: “A lot of this spam is cost-per-action spam. In the old days, adware toolbars were the product and they had direct affiliates. Now with social networking spam, I am seeing affiliate networks acting as the middlemen for the product or brand, which allows localisation across the globe.

“You cannot easily report a profile as spam. Using photo recognition to identify fake profiles could also be helpful, as many of the profile pictures are used again and again. You create your network, by keeping the spammers out, you protect your friends and family.”

The growth in social networking spam comes both from spam applications and fake profiles. The applications push viral concepts like the Facebook ‘dislike' button, which was tried by 12 per cent of Facebook users, or the ability to see who has viewed your profile, tried by 20 per cent. Once a user activates a spam application, it instantly becomes shared with all of their friends, potentially spreading the scam.

The fake profiles usually employ a profile picture presenting an alluring young female. Often the profiles feature frequent updates that build up large friend lists through months of activity before they begin sending spam, often for adult sites.

Earlier this week, BitDefender announced statistics from its safego application that showed the percentage to which Facebook users are subjected to malicious content. It found that one-fifth of Facebook users are subjected to malware, following a scan of over 17 million Facebook posts.

It found that over 60 per cent of attacks come from notifications from malicious third-party applications on Facebook's developer platform and within this, 21 per cent are applications claiming to provide functionality that Facebook does not offer, such as seeing who has viewed your profile and who has removed you as a friend.

Also, 15.4 per cent are add-ons offering bonus items to applications such as FarmVille, MafiaWars or FishVille and 11 per cent are the likes of ‘dislike buttons' and free backgrounds. 

David Jevans, CEO of Ironkey, told SC Magazine that these sort of statistics show that any user-generated content has the ability to distribute malware.

He said: “On one level it works so it is a consistent problem and Facebook has to change as all applications are not all good. This is a real industry challenge too as more malicious applications are out there and some work on the mobile platform, we will see more malicious applications and research shows that applications do collect user data.”

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