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updated 4/25/2012 2:19:46 PM ET 2012-04-25T18:19:46

Worried about the cost of anti-virus software? An unlikely white knight has come to your rescue.

At noon ET today (April 25), Facebook unveiled " The Facebook Anti-Virus Marketplace," which offers free downloads of five well-regarded anti-virus products from Microsoft, McAfee, Trend Micro, Sophos and Symantec.

"Now, all of Facebook's more than 900 million users will be protected by the combined intelligence of these industry leaders," reads the announcement on the Facebook Security page.

Two of the products, Microsoft Security Essentials and Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition, are permanently free and can also be obtained from the companies' websites.

The other three, McAfee Internet Security, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus and Trend Micro Security, appear to be trial versions similar to the versions installed on new PCs. (The Norton and Trend Micro offerings will also work on Macs.)

Facebook says the trial versions will last at least six months, after which Facebook members will be allowed to download another product.

The social-networking giant will also use these companies' malware databases to  block malicious websites.

"Our URL blacklist system, which scans trillions of clicks per day, will now incorporate the malicious URL databases from these security companies to augment our existing level of protection," the announcement reads. "This means that whenever you click a link on our site, you benefit not just from  Facebook's existing protections, but the ongoing vigilance of the world's leading corporations involved in computer security."

Subscriptions to top anti-virus products can run up to $80 per year, so this is a pretty great deal. A PC user could rotate between McAfee, Symantec and Trend Micro for the next 18 months, though it's not clear if he could start the cycle again after that.

Microsoft Security Essentials and Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac don't have all the features that the trial versions offer, such as malicious URL blocking or automatic attachment scanning, but they may be good enough for many users.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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