How does antivirus scan work

Get Our NewsletterWIRED’s biggest stories delivered to your inbox. Facebook’s antivirus scan locks users out of their accounts, how does antivirus scan work they download software that sometimes doesn’t even work on their computers. Charity tried to log onto Facebook on February 11, she found herself completely locked out of her account.

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A message appeared saying she needed to download Facebook’s malware scanner if she wanted to get back in. Charity couldn’t use Facebook until she completed the scan, but the file the company provided was for a Windows device—Charity uses a Mac. When she tried instead to log in from her computer at work, Facebook greeted her with the same roadblock. A Facebook spokesperson said Charity may have been asked to download the wrong software because some malware can spoof what kind of computer a person is running.

Still, Charity was left without any way to access her account. And her experience is far from unique. I could not actually run the software they were demanding I download and use. The malware scans likely only impact a relatively small population of Facebook’s billions of users, some of whose computers may genuinely be infected. But even a fraction of Facebook’s users still potentially means millions of impacted people. WIRED spoke to people who had been locked out of their accounts by the scan, or simply baffled by it, on four different continents. The mandatory malware scan has downsides beyond losing account access.