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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook next year plans to roll out mobile support for security tokens for users who want to take extra measures protect their accounts, the company's head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher tells Axios.

Driving the news: Facebook will also expand its Facebook Protect security program to more types of accounts next year. The program will be made available to vulnerable users like journalists, human rights defenders and celebrities, and also to users in countries with upcoming major elections.  

Facebook Protect includes additional security provisions, like two-factor authentication and real-time monitoring for potential hacking threats.

  • To-date, it has only been available in the U.S. to politicians, party officials, government agencies, election staff and anyone with a blue-badge verified Facebook page who is involved in the election process. 

The security keys are advised for high-profile accounts, but will available for use to any Facebook account holder that wants one.

  • Facebook is considering sending security keys to public figures like policymakers.
  • Users will be able to buy the tokens from various retailers in-person and online, and then will be able to register them with Facebook.

Yes, but: While hardware keys are a time-tested security control, they're not invulnerable, and they can be lost or stolen.

  • It's for this reason that Gleicher recommends users with high-profile accounts use both Facebook Protect and security keys.
  • "Bad actors are trying to target social media assets of prominent voices. Just because you're not a CEO or a political candidate doesn't mean you're not a prominent person in your field and a target," he says.

The big picture: Facebook believes one of its biggest improvements from 2016 was that it blocked bad actors from hacking real accounts or creating fake accounts to spread disinformation. This transformed Facebook's misinformation problem from being a security matter in 2016 to more of a content moderation issue in 2020.

  • "Our thesis is that you have to protect accounts because every compromised asset can become a tool that is used by bad actors for greater harm — much greater — afterwards, in addition to causing immediate harm to people," says Gleicher. 

By the numbers: In 2020, Facebook estimates that over 70% of people who were closely involved with the U.S. election turned on two-factor authentication.

  • While Facebook prompted many users, like state and election officials, candidates, and party leaders to sign up for the feature, it ultimately relied on people working close to the election to opt in to the program.

What's next: In addition to these security protections, Facebook says it will also expand its public reporting of security threats. The public disclosures of different influence operations or hack attempts help to deter and slow down bad actors, Gleicher says. 

Go deeper

Facebook takes new steps to deter inauguration week violence

Photo: by Valera Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Facebook on Friday said it would block the creation of new events near the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings as it tries to prevent violence in the week of the inauguration.

Why it matters: Facebook and other tech companies are scrambling to stop their platforms from being used to plan or carry out violence following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.