If any of you out there are Facebook users, I thought I should warn you about something.
It’s a problem you might not have encountered yet, but may do in the future.
I haven’t been a FB user for very long, only since about eight months ago and only really to develop a FB page for this blog on the advice of a friend. Well, two weeks or so ago I tried to log in to my account only to be told I’d been locked out because Facebook had ‘detected malware’ on my computer. The only way to get back into my account, I was told, was to download the specific anti-malware software/scan that FB was recommending and let it scan my computer. Naturally, I was highly suspicious of this, as I already have two different anti-virus, malware detection programs running on my computer (Avira is very thorough), and they hadn’t detected anything.
Also, the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. For one thing, how and why would Facebook be scanning my computer in the first place – which it would have to have been doing if it detected malware. For another, why would it insist I download the specific software they were offering instead of giving me the option to run my existing anti-virus software?
I checked out Facebook’s official post notifying users of the new malware-protection policy and found hundreds of angry FB users who’d all experienced the same problem. This even included users who were on paid accounts for their businesses or charities. It also became apparent that a number of those who experienced this lock-out said it occurred specifically when they tried to post or share links or data of a particular nature;
- For example, one FB user says: ‘I was on the page “Guns safety for every town” when this happened. Makes me wonder if this notice was politically motivated‘.
- Another: ‘I just tried to share the “Justice for Candy Middleton” and also got locked out. Funny that the two pages that caused our accounts to be locked are those associated with wrongdoings of law-enforcement.’
- Another: ‘I too just shared the Bundy Ranch Facebook page and instantly Facebook blocked my Maxthon Browser and will not allow me to log in with it.’
- Yet Another: ‘Mine was also locked after Sharing Bundy Ranch page. Facebook needs to stop deciding things for us. We are perfectly able to make up our own minds on what pages we want to like, share or people we want to befriend. Stop policing us based on our views.’
For me personally, I was locked out after posting an article about the 7/7 London Bombings. Which forces me to wonder whether FB is trying to find an ulterior motive for beginning now to censor what goes onto the platform. Thousands of users reported the problem to FB and expressed their anger, but received no reply or explanation. At the very least, Facebook has obviously made a deal with ‘McAfee’s Scan and Repair’, Kaspersky Lab and several other companies/programs to force users to download their specific software, even if those users already have their own anti-virus or anti-malware software.
Several users reported that when they downloaded the software and ran the scan, one or more of the following happened; (1) it massively slowed down their computer from that point on, (2) the program disappeared and couldn’t be located anywhere on the computer to be deleted or uninstalled, (3) the program tried to make the user delete or uninstall existing anti-virus or anti-malware software on the computer. Most of those who reported on having used the software said that nothing discernible happened at all, and moreover that there was no status-bar, no progress update or anyway to track what was being done or to figure out when it was ‘finished’.
Someone suggested to me that the likelihood is that a third party, via Facebook, is trying to install surveillance software on specific users’ computers.
It is possible that once you install it, you can never uninstall it (particularly if you can’t locate any trace of it). The software of course scans and reads all your files, all your drives; in short, everything on your computer. This may simply be personal data surveillance by the back-door, which is of course highly troubling, if not very surprising. It also occurred to me that someone or something may have been trying to install malware on my computer. There has of course been plenty written about NSA surveilence, Britain’s GCHQ, mass surveillance and even targeted malware attacks. According to a report by The Intercept, the NSA “disguises itself as a fake Facebook server” to perform “man-in-the-middle” and “man-on-the-side” attacks and spread malware. It’s isn’t just an American problem either. The mass interception and surveillance of UK citizens’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google “is entirely legal”, according to government officials. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others have denied that the NSA has “direct access” to their servers, but there’s every reason to believe that mass surveillance via Internet platforms is occurring unabated, even in this post-Snowden world.
Of course, surveillance and sharing of meta-data goes on all over the Internet virtually all the time anyway and concerning your Google searches, social media habits, on-line shopping, etc; but, even so, there was something particularly suspect about an actual forced download of third-party software.
Unwilling to download their recommended software, after a few attempts to log-in to my account over a few days, I simply decided to abandon my Facebook page and leave Facebook behind, since having a FB page wasn’t that a big a deal to me anyway; and I was also aware that lots and lots of people were already migrating to Google-Plus anyway (which basically does everything Facebook does). However, a fortnight or so later, on a whim, I made another random log-in attempt – and got in. So, for no discernible reason, the account was unfrozen and I could simply carry on posting. Given that I didn’t run the scan or download the software, quite why FB would let me back in is entirely unclear, given it had previously insisted I had malware and couldn’t be allowed to ‘infect’ other users with it. Which simply confirms that there was no malware on my machine and that FB simply wanted to install things on my computer; once it realised I wasn’t going to take the bait, it presumably decided to let me back in again.
My advice to anyone else having this problem – or any of you who may encounter it in the future – is certainly to NOT run the scan or download any software (unless you actually do believe there’s a problem on your computer – in which case, run your own anti-malware software/scans on your machine/device first and see what it detects). Should it happen, you could try logging in using a different browser, try clearing all your cookies and history, or simply do what I did and *do nothing* and check in again in a few weeks.
And if you’re still unable to get back into your account, then just dump Facebook and go over to Google-Plus, Tumblr or some other platform. It’s clear anyway that FB, and possibly other platforms, are being used for surveillance and possibly for targeted malware attacks on specific users. If shit like this continues, it’s probably going to lose a lot of its users.