Facebook security 'checkpoint' hits user roadblock

Facebook's recently launched Malware Checkpoint, which prompts users to scan and clean their personal computers, has drawn criticism from users who claim it has locked them out of their accounts.

The checkpoint, which takes people to the Facebook Security site, provides links to McAfee's Scan and Repair and Microsoft's Security Essentials at no charge.

This latest security layer is an expansion of Facebook's own monitoring of the site for suspicious content. In addition, Facebook launched in April an Anti-Virus Marketplace where users can down free antivirus software from security vendors.

Facebook Security wrote in a blog post: "Previously, if you suspected you may have malware installed on your device, you would either need to run anti-virus on your device or wait until Facebook identified an actionable threat. Now, with our new self-enrollment malware checkpoint, you will be able to proactively obtain your choice of a free anti-virus product to scan and clean your system."

Launched Tuesday, the checkpoint drew criticism from some users, who claimed that their accounts were locked when they tried to use the service.

"Facebook is forcing me to run McAfee Scan and Repair to unlock my account. It freezes every time," Nikki Fisher wrote in the "Malware Checkpoint for Facebook" blog post's comment section. "I have spent hours trying to find a solution and/or an actual person from Facebook who can help me. Fat waste of time."

Ashley Glauser said to he was locked out of his account. "I just want to say this program SUCKS!!"

Clicking on a link to the McAfee product downloads a small program that does a onetime scan, and offers the option to remove malicious files. The link to the Microsoft software downloads the full antivirus product.

Before the actual malware scan with McAfee, a person can abort by checking a box that says, "I certify that I have run the Anti-Virus software and that my computer no longer has any malware." Doing so sends the person to their Facebook news feed.

Such a mechanism is unlikely to have a major impact on securing Facebook, which is a favorite target of scanners and spammers looking to reach the social network's 900 million users. "It's probably, likely just scratching the surface," Tony Perez, chief operating officer at security firm Sucuri, said Thursday. Before joining Sucuri, Perez worked on securing applications for defense contractors.

In general, Facebook and other large Internet companies, such as Google and Twitter, are broadening anti-malware defenses. For example, Google recently joined efforts to clean computers of DNSChanger, by warning users if it detected the malware on their computers.

An Estonian gang of cybercriminals had infected millions of computers with the Trojan before the organization was broken up by law enforcement.

Social networks are growing in popularity among hackers. Last year, they became the fourth most popular entry point for the PC, up from fifth in 2010, according to a report by security vendor Blue Coat Systems.

Read more about social networking security in CSOonline's Social Networking Security section.

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