The researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have introduced the term "socware" to describe a combination of "social malware," encompassing all criminal and parasitic behavior on online social networks.
In a recent four-month experiment the free application MyPageKeeper successfully flagged 97 percent of socware, a university release reported Tuesday.
During the experiment, the researchers analyzed more than 40 million posts from 12,000 people who installed MyPageKeeper and found 49 percent of users were exposed to at least one socware post during the trial.
"This is really an arms race with hackers," computer science Professor Michalis Faloutsos said. "In many ways, Facebook has replaced email and websites. Hackers are following that same path and we need new applications like MyPageKeeper to stop them."
The application works through ongoing scanning of the walls and newsfeeds of subscribed users, identifying socware posts and alerting the users.
For example, the presence of words such as "FREE," "Hurry," "Deal" and "Shocked" provide a strong indication of the post being spam, the researchers said.
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