The Facebook-McAfee Lockout

Yesterday, while relaxing at home, B decided to check her Facebook account on her iPad.  She immediately told me that she thought she might have been hacked.  To make sure, she went on her laptop.  Sure enough, I came and saw that she had been locked out.  Not just locked out, though, but locked out due to a virus.

lockout1

Wait… a virus?  Mind you, this was without Facebook having any ability to scan our computer.  Also, this was after being locked out on the iPad.

lockout2

Nice lesson in malware prevention.  Of course, we’re both well versed in the "don’t run programs from sources you don’t trust" rule.  We also have anti-virus software running all the time on our computer just in case anything slips by our "common sense filter".  (Security is all about layers.)  Still, we can just click Continue to re-enable the account and scan using our anti-virus of choice, right?  After all, the next screen does say "you can also remove them yourself."

lockout3

I’d click the "We’ll remove them ourselves, please unlock the account" button, but all I see is a "Download and Run McAfee" button.

At this point, I began to wonder just how valid this notice was.  I didn’t doubt it was from Facebook, but I began to question whether this was just an isolated incident.  So I did what anyone would do: I searched Twitter and Google.  On Twitter, I found numerous people who were locked out due to "virus infections."

Two stood out to me in particular.  First was @grilledcheez.  She responded to one of my tweets with the following:

grilledcheez

If this was an actual virus infection, why weren’t both of the accounts locked out?

And then there was @jason_michael who was locked out of his Facebook page due to a "virus infection"… on a Mac:

jason_michael

This was looking very fishy.  Especially when a Google search turned up a deal between Facebook and McAfee.  Facebook will helpfully "detect" viruses on your computer and offer to clean it for you using McAfee’s software.

Of course, if you don’t want to install McAfee on your system, that’s fine.  You can use your own anti-virus software, as this Facebook post illustrates.  However, there’s a catch.  You first need to agree to the McAfee Scan and Repair Terms of Service.  (That’s why I don’t have a screenshot.  I didn’t want to agree to their TOS.)

I do have one more screenshot, though, from @jason_michael.  Apparently, he got back in without running McAfee.  You see, his third screen didn’t display a "Run McAfee now" message, but this instead:

 lockout-mac

Yes, he was able to simply click to certify that he ran anti-virus software and then was able to get back into his account.  No forced downloads and no required TOS agreements.  So why did he get the optional treatment and we didn’t?  My only guess would be that Mac-Windows difference.  After all, you can’t require a Mac user to install Windows software.  (It’s trivial to detect what operating system you are running.  In fact, I use Google Analytics which does – among other things – just that.  Hello to the 22.25% of TechyDad visitors who used Macs or iOS devices in the past month!)

In the end, after writing almost this entire post, I got back into B’s Facebook account again by using Internet Explorer instead of Chrome.  However, I’m not sure if it was a matter of IE being allowed in where Chrome wasn’t or if the lockout was only for a certain amount of time.  Still, the big red warning bar and only presented choice of running McAfee seems very scammy to me.

It looks like I’ve got yet another reason not to use Facebook.  And, if Facebook insists on pushing McAfee on its users due to "virus infections" that it "finds", they will give many users a good reason to move away from them and to a different social media platform.

26 comments

  • Excellent Article Techy Dad. Have posted in on FB, Twitter, and other Social Media Networks.

    It comes down to FB performing unsavory business practices and communications…and it should stop…let’s get mainstream media on to this. Sending this to some Journalists I know.

    Sincerely,

    Jason Michael

    • I am replying as I have a lockout problem. On my Kindle Fire HDX. Amazon told me I did not need an antivirus, but that I could add one if it would make feel better. So, I downloaded and installed the McAfee antivirus. I teach chemistry and was at school when I installed McAfee. It would not allow me to use the school’s Internet. Thinking I made a typo, In tried to use the school’s Internet. It then locked my Kindle and would not accept my pin. It told me to go on line. Well, can’t do that as my Kindle is off line and locked? Can’t seem to contact McAfee direct. Can you help??

  • Steve

    I did not get the other options yesterday..just the one to check using McAfee…had no choice other than to do the install to access my F/B account.
    After several unsuccessful attempts at installing the McAfee garbage, it finally took, and told me there was no virus’s .

    I attempted to do a system restore to Saturday, and of course , it wouldn’t take……
    I did take the software out thru control panel…this is simple fraud and hijacking to sell software. Thank you once again F/B for malicious business practices

  • @Jason Michael

    The mainstream media (well, probably only Fox News) is too busy reporting on Facebook’s admission that they were hacked, and the fact that they paid no state or federal taxes on their billion dollar profits.

  • i got the same message on Chrome and went immediately to phone and was required to log in but had no issues browsing. i made 3 later attempts to log in getting the same “infected” message but like any sensible person, my virus checker runs all the time and does a complete scan every day so I ignored it and a few hours later I was able to log in ok.
    DaveinOlyWA recently posted..I Am Lazy, but So Are You!My Profile

  • Just another reason to not use Facebook. They have to start proving to the public that they’re worth their valuation. Advertisers will soon become more important than user experience.
    Jeff recently posted..Creating a startup: what’s more important, design or technology?My Profile

  • slicer

    Advertisers became more important than the user experience when my dead friend’s account started liking things like Subaru and pizza Hut’s pages from beyond the grave. Absolutely disrespectful, dishonest and dishonest. Advertisers should be steering clear of facebook

  • Barbara

    I am appalled at facebook’s dishonesty and manipulation of users. I have seen my name, my kids’ names and my son’s picture show up on ads and immediately asked my 2000 or so friends to ‘dislike’ the post when they saw them, citing false advertising and theft of personal pictures as the reason.

  • I’m glad you’ve pointed out the dishonesty and stupidity of Facebook. Obviously, that is ridiculous.

    I’m not glad that you’ve implied that Macs can’t or don’t get malware, which is intellectually dishonest.

    • TechyDad

      @4eak, I never implied that Macs can’t get viruses. I used quotes around the words virus infection in regards to @jason_michael’s tweet because I doubted that Facebook was detecting actual viruses and instead was just pushing McAfee.

  • I actualy stopped reading this article after I read the tweet that you only use macs how could you have a virus. You sir should not be allowed to preach about anything technical. Using a MAC so you can’t get virus’s are you serious? I am not even going to go into the amount of stupid this statement….nvm. You putting this trash to spread to other idiots that actually believe it is amazing. Other than that ITS FACE BOOK why is anyone shocked?

    • TechyDad

      @Ryan, Perhaps you should read the article better before responding. First of all, I don’t use Macs. That was a tweet by @jason_michael. Personally, I run PCs.

      Secondly, I never said Macs don’t get viruses. Of course they can. However, I highly doubted that any virus infection was at fault due to how the lockout struck my wife and the other people who were locked out.

      About the only thing I might be guilty of is assuming that FaceBook’s online McAfee scan was Windows-only. However, this was just a theory given the different screens encountered by Jason on his Mac and my wife on Windows. (In fact, Jason’s screen shows a link referencing anti-virus products for Macs.)

      I am quite well versed in computer security and would never declare that any platform was immune from viruses.

  • Macs can get Malware and Virii, and there is Proof Of Concept for both and more. There are Virii out there written for Macs as well as Malware. That being said, the percentage of Virii and Malware out there in the wild / real world is larger for non Mac OSs than Mac OSs.

    I also use Android, and PCs, however my business runs Macs exclusively as we are an Image / Video Studio and I have worked with Macs since 1999. It is my business and my personal choice that the Studio runs Macs. I like PCs, and other OSs however my personal preference for UX (User Experience) is Mac OSX and iOS. Your results will vary.

    Sincerely,

    Jason Michael

  • Bastards will stop at nothing to pry into someones business.

  • Sandy

    @4eak
    How is that dishonest? I’ve used nothing but Mac since 93 and have NEVER had ANY virus or malware protection. I’ve also NEVER had a virus, malware, adware, etc. So how is that inaccurate??

  • gmathol

    The best way is to block all facebook malware like their funny tracking cookies or use a Linux derivative which is no so common.

  • gmathol

    @Sandy

    How do you know? I have customers with Macs and even I-Pads
    which were infected like crazy, almost every software components was infected with malware and the whole device had to swiped.

  • Wis3Guy

    After making a deal with McAfee this is how they market the product, interesting. I would never use a Social Media platform which treats their guests like this.

  • StavrosZhekhov

    I performed a clean wipe on my computer after getting the facebook message, believing the message to be more of a rogue AVS. But once I downloaded my preferred browser and AVS I still got the message, on a completely wiped computer. Didn’t upload backup files or anything either. Access from the laptop is fine though. I think they look at your data from device and browser and somehow remember it. I refuse to give in to the download!

  • Shimada Masao

    I also had problems !

  • Johnson

    My account is blocked to to virus when I try to access it with Firefox. However, my account opens without any issue with Explorer! I can also access other FB accounts with Firefox, so their so-called virus is complete BS. I refuse to install their spyware.

  • I cant open facebook in my Google Chrome Browser for almost a month now. It keeps on telling me that I need to download this antivirus because my computer may be infected with a virus. I was a bit concern since I am using an ESET NOD 32 Premium and I thought that its security is not secure after all.

    FB tried to ask me to download several antivirus but I am hesitant to do so for it might be a virus itself. I searched online and viola its not just me having this issues.

    I was not still able to resolve this issue. But just few minutes a go I did try to open FB using firefox browser and wohoo I got in.

    So I dont know if its about really about the virus thing or the rivalry between Google and Facebook.

    If you have this issue and has resolves it please comment below.. hehehe 🙂

  • You are so right that there is a difference between Windows and Mac. I was forced to download their anti-malware scanner on Windows 10, and it wound up knocking out my real antivirus program. However, on a Mac, and on Lubuntu, I was given a warning about malware being present (not true, incidentally), but I had the option to tell them they were in error. The warning has nothing to do with malware, but your account—I located a video where a gentleman demonstrated that he could get on to his account but his wife, on the same computer, got the Facebook malware warning. My blog post at http://jackyan.com/blog/2016/01/when-facebook-forces-you-to-download-their-anti-malware-your-own-antivirus-gets-knocked-out/ has a few tips on how I got past it, and removed the Facebook anti-malware scanner (since it does not show up in your installed programs’ list). Dodgy as heck in any case, and I would avoid downloading anything from Facebook.

  • Paul

    It’s because of an infected wall post. I just dealt with this on a clients infected machine that I disinfected. She brought it back stating we didn’t do our jobs properly in a round about way because she had this happen. I scanned her wall and found some wall posts to find malicious java.

    • I got locked out when I used Facebook’s own messaging plug-in, and I know of a couple of other cases with the same situation. I’m not saying the wall post wasn’t responsible, but that there’s not a single cause of this malware warning.

  • dancingtree

    A similar thing just happened to me. I tried to directly post a link, & facebook decided I was malware. And refuses to let me log in unless I download their malware scanner. It’s not McAfee but something called “ESET Online Scanner”. I don’t trust facebook *nearly* enough to be remotely okay with downloading software from them, nevermind for the purpose of scanning my whole computer. I find the whole situation to be distasteful and coercive, & will probably just give up FB. They won’t even allow me to log in so I can post in their help center for help! Jeez!

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