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7 of the best antivirus services for Android smartphones and tablets

You’ve installed antivirus software on your desktop — but your smartphones and tablets need protection, too. These are the ones that deserve a look.


Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

We hate to kick off this in such a negative fashion, but we feel obligated to alert all you Android users that your smart phones are vulnerable. While Android’s customization is great, the fact that they have an open platform makes them easier to hack and attack. And this can result in anything from lost photos and contacts to stolen credit card numbers and malware that bricks your phone, rendering it unusable and unrepairable. Fortunately, you can protect your Android by downloading an antivirus app. (Exhale deep sigh of relief now.)

Android antivirus apps work similarly to the antivirus software you would download for your PC. Once it’s been installed, the app will scan all the files on your phone and look for anything you might have downloaded inadvertently. As it completes the scan, it alerts you to any problems. However, unlike Mac or Windows-based software, not all Android apps automatically remove the harmful files. You may have to do that manually.

Many of these apps also have value beyond preventing viruses. Indeed, a number of them come with bonus features like anti-theft controls. These allow you to locate and track misplaced phones as well remotely lock and delete their contents. Some apps also provide phone and message filters, letting you add unknown (and unwanted) numbers to a blacklist. Additionally, you’ll discover many options that offer network and web monitoring. Hence the app will alert you whenever you’re on a suspect site or risky Wi-Fi network. It’s also possible to find programs that backup your data as well. And a handful of applications are even designed with alarms and flashlights. Finally, we should note that many companies offer both free and paid versions of their apps.   

We know that all of the above sounds great. But there are some drawbacks to downloading antivirus apps. These applications often take up a decent amount of space and consume battery life. They can also impede your processing speed and barrage you with irritating notifications. Moreover, some Android enthusiasts argue that if you simply stick to downloading apps from Google Play, your phone should be fine. 

However, we just love playing it safe (we enjoy a good seat belt, too). So we heartily recommend installing some antivirus software. In fact, we even did some research to make it easy for you. Here are our top picks for antivirus apps.

Simple scans • Strong malware protection
Free version basically only scans for malware and nothing else
Amazing protection with minimal effect on performance.

1. Bitdefender Mobile Security

Amazing protection with minimal effect on performance.

  • Size:
  • Free Version:
  • Premium Version:
    Yes ($14.99/year)
  • In-app Products:
    Up to $44.99
If you want absolute protection against malware and viruses, consider downloading Bitdefender. A top-of-the-line app, Bitdefender has a malware scanner with an impressive 100 percent detection rate. You can also use it to lock any app you deem sensitive with a PIN code (replete with 30 second timeout after 5 false attempts). And should your phone go missing, Bitdefender allows you to track, lock and wipe your Android. 
Moreover, its web security function ensures a safe browsing experience as it quickly detects any malicious content. Oh, and the coolest feature? Snap Photo — Bitdefender snaps a pic of anyone tampering with your phone in your absence. That’s practically worth the price alone.  
Google Play reviewer Google user writes:

“Bitdefender is strong security and easy to use. On Android the autopilot lets you set it and forget it for the most part — really non-invasive. Seems fairly light weight, too. The anti-theft features are good for peace of mind. Glad to have my trusted PC protection as my Android security.”

Another Google user writes on Google Play reviews:

“So thankful for Bitdefender. I’ve tracked my stolen laptop, blocked access to my files, found/tracked my lost phone. Made my phone scream when I misplaced it. Put a lock code on my laptop and phone when they went missing. Put a lock code on apps that I don’t want a nosey bf to Snoop through and it took a picture of him when he was trying to guess my passcode. All of this I’ve done through the app, and quickly as the app is very user-friendly. Not to mention the years of protection for my PC’s, that seem to be infection free and definitely have operated like so. Thanks to all of you at Bitdefender for making this possible.”

Very straightforward to use
One of the pricier apps
A trusted brand that delivers.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your Android, you should definitely think about downloading Norton. A well-known and respected brand, Norton quickly scans your Wi-Fi connection and notifies you if it’s not secure. Of course, it also scans for malware, spyware and viruses that have the potential to harm your device. 
Similar to other applications, it allows you to block SPAM and junk calls. But the one way Norton distinguishes itself from the competition? It’s smartly integrated with Google Play to show you alerts about specific apps prior to downloading them. You’re able to see any potential risk they might pose — from draining the battery to requiring an excessive amount of data. And you can make a judgement call before hitting download.
Google Play reviewer Mary Hockaday writes:

“Norton continues to be my favorite security app for all my devices, new features are good. I’ve used other mobile security apps and never have been advised on my mobile of malicious emails or websites until I used Norton. I use it on my laptop and tablet as well. Norton will let you know in advance whether an app is safe or a downloaded app causes risk to your device. You then have a choice to trust the app or uninstall it.”

Another Google Play reviewer Gracie writes:

“One year update: Norton is still working hard protecting my phone. I love all the features Norton Mobile offers, but my favorite one is the website scan. It has caught numerous bogus websites that could have been potentially harmful to my phone. I definitely recommend purchasing this Norton product!”

Great at combating phishing attacks
Free version has ads
A popular app that provides unparalleled protection.

3. Avast Mobile Security

A popular app that provides unparalleled protection.

  • Size:
  • Free Version:
  • Premium Version:
    Yes ($2.99/month or $11.99/year)
  • In-app Products:
    Up to $79.99
There’s a reason Avast has been installed over 100 million times. This app is filled with features that guarantees your Android will stay safe and your information secure. After all, Avast offers both real-time and on-demand scanning and easily checks the security of whatever Wi-Fi connection you’ve logged onto. 
You can also use the app to lock specific apps, ensuring that only you have the power to open them. Additionally, Avast provides a call blocker, anti-theft support, a photo vault, a junk cleaner, a Wi-Fi speed test, a RAM boost, a VPN and even a firewall (for rooted Androids only). We assume you stopped reading this halfway through this list so you could start downloading Avast. Good thinking.
Google Play reviewer M-K- G-W writes:

“I enjoy this app, it is user friendly and it Works great for me. Saved my ass…sets from being over run by hackers and malware. It has stopped malicious emails, text messages, and even tells you whether a phone number is safe (bare in mind that doesn’t mean the caller is safe).”

Another Google Play reviewer Ed Knight writes:

“I have been using Avast in my desktop for years and it works so well, I put the mobile version in my tablet. It works great, also. Avast was recommended to me by several of my computer savvy friends and they were right. I recommend Avast for computers as well as mobile devices.”

Solid real-time web protection
Lots of notifications
Places a premium on privacy, ensuring personal data stays personal.
There’s no doubt that Kaspersky is a leader in antivirus software. Making the leap from PCs, the company now ensures that phones are safe from malware, viruses and Trojans as well. Importantly, its anti-phishing feature works diligently to keep your financial information safe when you’re shopping or banking online. 
The app is also capable of blocking both unwanted calls and texts. And it allows you to place a lock on your other apps, requiring a secret code before anyone can access messages, photos, etc. Best of all, should you ever lose your phone, Kaspersky allows you to track it. So you can follow the adventures it’s having without you.
Google Play reviewer Mooshe Hoory writes:

“Premium protection! I’ve been using Kaspersky protection on PC for 10 years with full satisfaction. As from about 2 years ago, I’ve also installed protection for Android, which works smoothly and is very light, not idling the phone.”

Another Google Play reviewer Jose Luis Ruiz writes:

“Well, it’s been working good. I have 2 smartphones, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and a LG G6, 1 laptop and 1 Desktop protected by Kaspersky all are under my Premium Subscription. And it’s working well together. The app also shows me how many days I have left which is about 3 more years to go… Update, got a new product key to cover 5 devices for $50.00 that’s a very good deal, I am still covering my note 5, lg g6, but now covering my wife’s laptop, my desktop and my samsung galaxy Tab S tablet. I have zero complaints now.”

Great storage cleaner and memory booster
Expensive (in comparison to other apps)
Well rounded app that offers protection, privacy, and performance.
We know you might be scoffing at the price. However, the McAfee Mobile Security app is designed with a number of great elements. Certainly, it can scan for malicious code, risky websites and ARP spoofing attacks. But McAfee offers so much more. You can use the app to remove unwanted files, boost battery, and monitor data usage. 
The app also allows you to lock any sensitive content, control what your kids can see and filter out unwanted calls and SMS messages. As if that wasn’t enough, McAfee has a variety of anti-theft features. Once you download, you’ll be able to remotely lock your phone and wipe your data, prevent a thief from uninstalling your security app, track your phone and sound a remote alarm. Honestly, these features are so good you’ll almost want someone to steal your phone so you can use them. Almost. 
Google Play reviewer Michael Wilson writes:

“A lot of security apps are overly constraining and continuously alerting you of unimportant matters, McAfee doesn’t seem to slow anything down, and alerts only important matters. An overall good protection app.”

Another Google Play reviewer Lee J Jones writes: 

“Awesome puts my mind to rest, no viruses or malicious content and the kids mode is really the best thing since sliced bread, you choose what a person can and cant access in kids mode, I know now I can share my phone without somebody messing with my stuff it’s one of the best features on android altogether and should come available on any android device as standard privacy control!”

Great malware protection that receives continual intelligence reports
Can drain the battery
An easy and affordable way to ensure security.
Using regularly updated intelligence from SophosLabs, the Sophos Antivirus App is fantastic at identifying suspect and malicious content. And considering it’s free and doesn’t make you suffer through ads, you’d think that that would suffice. But the folks at Sophos aren’t content with resting on their laurels. This app also lets you remotely lock or wipe your data, on the off-chance your phone is stolen. 
Sophos can also block unwanted calls, provide password protection for your apps and offer advice on how to improve your device security. It even keeps a record of the apps you’ve downloaded that contain your personal data. However, Sophos will not order you dinner. But you have Seamless for that.
Google Play reviewer Thurein Tun writes:

“Good antivirus. I had been using Avast, but got sick of it’s ads and made a change in my free antivirus choice. Now, I’m satisfied with this one. Like others already said, lightweight, barely had effect on performance of the phone, and for the protecting quality AV and other testing groups proved it. Good one! Live it and satisfied with it. Only with they still maintaining the same.”

Another Google Play reviewer Dominik Sienko writes:

“In my experience, a great antivirus. The AppLock feature here has more options (eg a password option) and is more secure than even apps dedicated to this purpose… The built-in authenticator is useful too, so now I don’t have to use a separate app for that. I haven’t used any of the other features, but I can say that this app is 10/10 in my book. The only thing that’s odd is that web filtering isn’t detecting I have Chrome Beta installed.”

Easy installation and little impact on your phone
No quick scan option
An app with a simple design that’s intuitive to use!

7. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

  • Size:
    Varies with device
  • Free Version:
  • Premium Version:
    Yes ($1.49/month or $11.99/year)
  • In-app Products:
    Up to $11.99
As the name implies, Malwarebytes first priority is protecting your phone from malware. And we’re happy to report that the app greatly succeeds in that. It even offers real-time protection, searching for unwanted programs on your phone. Malwarebytes also conducts privacy audits on your other apps, tracking which ones monitor your location and calls or have the potential to cost you in hidden fees. 
If you’re fancy enough to spring for the paid version, you will receive alerts about malicious texts and call protection from known or suspected scammers. And the app will also scan for phishing URLs as you browse Chrome. Best of all, Malwarebytes detects ransomware before it has the ability to lock your phone. Isn’t that peace of mind worth paying for?
Google Play reviewer Sam Jam writes:

“Amazing software. I had an adware and tried everything from deleting the app in safe mode, to going into developer mode, to downloading Avast. I was really hesitant with Malwarebytes might not detect the virus. Low and behold, it does which surprised me. You have been helping me with my PC and now I am surprised you are also working on mobile. Fantastic work!  I would not subscribe to any mobile service but this is definitely an exception!”

Another Google Play reviewer Chocobo writes:

“My phone was so pestered by malware and I had no idea where it came from or how to get rid of it. This app saved me a factory reset and I’ll add another star in the future when I see that it really did delete that malware. Update: Amazing app. It deleted my malware just as I had hoped 🙂 no more pop up ads and redirects. They were really annoying and inappropriate and I’m so glad that this app was created because it got rid of all of it :)”

The 5 best VPNs for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

These VPNs will keep you secure and allow you to bypass geo-blocking, so you can enjoy the best of the Amazon Fire TV Stick wherever you are in the world.


Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

For those in the dark, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is, well, a little stick that you plug into your HDTV that enables you to start streaming over 10,000 apps, games, and Alexa skills, including Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix, and more. You also get access to millions of websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit, with browsers like Silk and Firefox.

Not only all that but you can launch apps and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote that comes included. Just ask for the content you want and Alexa responds. It’s as easy as that.

For Amazon Prime members there are even more options to choose from. They get unlimited access to Prime Video, which features thousands of movies and TV episodes at no additional cost. Plus, Prime members can add over 50 premium channels such as Discovery and Eurosport Player.

With all that content, how could there possibly be an issue? Well, a lot of that tantalising content is just out of reach due to geo-blocking, meaning that certain programmes are only available from a certain country or region. This can be down to content licensing agreements and broadcast rights, and there doesn’t immediately seem to be anything you can do about it. Well friends, where there’s a will there’s a way.

One way of getting around content blocking is to make use of a Virtual Private Network. These VPNs can hide your location when you are online, meaning you enjoy everything the Amazon Fire Stick TV has to offer.

These are the best VPNs for the Amazon Fire TV Stick in the UK.

Strong network of servers • Dedicated IP
Not the absolute fastest
Not the fastest service but a solid all-around option for those that want a VPN without any major weaknesses that would get in the way of your movie marathon

1. Pure VPN

PureVPN is a strong option with a diverse selection of servers that should appeal to those that travel far and wide.

  • Monthly:
  • One year:
  • Two years:
When looking for a VPN that will keep you connected to all the content that the Fire Stick potentially provides, Pure VPN ticks an awful lot of boxes. 
Pure VPN has a strong network of geographically diverse servers, a dedicated IP, and a strong privacy policy. So the key message is that this VPN boasts an outstanding network of international servers so you can keep watching your favourite series wherever you may be. Ideal for those that get around the globe.
It isn’t all perfect. Pure VPN is not the fastest VPN out there, but it is faster than most, and is definitely fast enough for most users to stay connected and enjoy the Fire Stick content buffer-free.
Overall, PureVPN is a serious option for anyone wanting to enjoy all of Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and Netflix, without being blocked. It’s one of the best VPNs thanks to its mix of competitive performance, polished design, and diverse server locations.

Good value for lengthy subscriptions • Money-back guarantee • Live chat support
The performance dips with some servers
An easy to use and aesthetic VPN that doesn’t place data caps on usage

2. CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost is really easy to use, meaning you can get online and access your shows with the minimum of fuss.

  • Monthly:
  • Six months:
  • One year:
  • 18 months:
CyberGhost hosts 1300 servers in 90 locations across 58 different countries, making it a serious option if you are looking to keep up to speed with your favourite shows on the move. Whether you travel for business or for pleasure, CyberGhost can keep you and your content connected.
CyberGhost, like some other networks on this list, doesn’t place any restrictions on your browsing habits, meaning there is no data caps and no throttling with this service. That means you can watch to your heart’s content, with no nagging fear that your stream will be cut. Nobody wants that when they are 10 episodes deep into a true crime documentary, and you absolutely must know who was guilty. If you sign up to CyberGhost you’ll benefit from unlimited traffic and bandwidth for the entirety of your contract. So if you like to binge, CyberGhost is a valid option.
CyberGhost is one of the best VPNs if you are using the Fire Stick TV because it is able to combine usability, a strong privacy policy, and a host of features that makes accessing movies and apps as easy as possible. CyberGhost does what a VPN should, without overcomplicating things, and that’s all you can ask for really.

Excellent download speeds • Ability to choose servers
There’s no free trial
Don’t let the lack of a free trial put you off because this is a serious VPN that delivers on speed and location

3. IPVanish

One of the fastest VPNs on the market meaning that buffering shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Monthly:
  • Three months:
  • One year:
Speed isn’t the most important aspect of a VPN when it comes to the Fire Stick TV — that is arguably server diversity. It does remain a real essential however, as you don’t want to be interrupted by the dreaded buffering wheel.
IPVanish has excellent download speeds all-round and stakes a claim to being the fastest VPN in the game. This is fantastic news for those that cannot stand to be met with constant buffering. Some of us are able to remain a little more patient and wait for an episode to load. Others can’t, and they won’t wait around for some of the slower VPNs.
IPVanish also delivers when it comes to server location, and as we said, that’s where it really counts when it comes to the Fire Stick TV. IPVanish offers a really good number of servers in over 60 countries, and it’s easy to select a solid server that is working well for you. This ability to select an individual server is a real plus with IPVanish, giving you the chance to flick through options until you find the perfect match. You can sort by speed and ping time, which means you can pick out the server that is best suited to your viewing needs.
As a caveat to this strong VPN, there is no free trial, but subscriptions do come with a 7-day money-back guarantee, so you aren’t completely at the mercy of the VPN gods.
IPVanish gives you the chance to select the server right for you, has a good number of servers, and is seriously fast. Ideal for getting past geo-blocking and watching your show wherever you are in the world.

Security is clearly key • Speed is strong • Good geographical spread of servers
There are cheaper options
There are cheaper options and probably faster ones too, but Nord VPN prioritises online security and that is good to see

4. Nord VPN

Nord VPN is one of the strongest in terms of protection, and should therefore always be a consideration.

  • Monthly:
  • Six months:
  • One year:
  • Two years:
Nord VPN has over 5100 servers in 62 countries all around the world, so it’s therefore able to supply a connection that isn’t too heavily impacted by reductions in speed. This means you should be able to watch uninterrupted wherever you may be. 
What helps Nord VPN to stand out from the crowd is its security profile, with a selection of offerings that boost protection. Traffic passes through two separate VPN servers, you get the option of a dedicated IP, and NordVPN operates a “no logs” policy, meaning your data should be secure. As much as it’s great to make use of the Amazon Fire Stick TV all around the globe, it’s a big bonus to know that your online activity is secure while you watch your favourites.
Monthly billing with Nord VPN can be on the pricier side of things, but if you commit for longer, you’ll get much better value for money, and a deal that stands up to the competition.

Great speed for apps • Massive range of servers
Limited simultaneous connections • Not the cheapest
With a really strong presence worldwide and great speeds, ExpressVPN is perfect for using the Fire Stick TV anywhere

5. ExpressVPN

A great spread of servers and it’s fast. What more do you need?

  • Monthly:
  • Six months:
  • One year:
ExpressVPN now operate across 94 countries so you should be able to find a speedy server wherever your content craving kicks in.
ExpressVPN is well known for its quality apps which include an Android app that works well with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. The app recommends the location that gives you the best connection speed, taking the fuss out of navigating the VPN.
That’s all well and good but the apps don’t count for much if the speed drops off considerably when using the VPN. Well ExpressVPN delivers on that front too, with strong performance levels across the board. 
Bad news, there’s no free trial with ExpressVPN so you can’t try before you buy, but there is a 30-day money back guarantee so you aren’t stuck if you aren’t happy with the service — but we have a feeling you will be.

7 of the best antivirus programs for Windows 10

Of all the products reviewed, Webroot received the most positive feedback — over 1,000 customers gave it five stars on Amazon. Webroot offers a wide range of features, from malware detection to computer tune-ups.
Take advantage of the software by blocking and detecting viruses, malware, and ransomware, and stopping phishing and identity theft. You’ll also receive warnings about dangerous links or sites before you click on them. Like some of the other products listed, you’ll also get automatic updates on the latest software. 
Best of all, you don’t just have to use this product for Windows 10. Webroot also works on mobile and tablets with up to five devices. And unlike some similarly priced products, you’ll also get cloud storage backup thrown into the whole package. 
Though a handful of customers have complained about poor support, the majority of those who are happy with the product says it works swimmingly well. As Amazon reviewer Madison put it:

“This operates seamlessly in the background. Non-intrusive. The absolute best customer service for anti-virus I’ve ever experienced. This was a renewal, so CD took me to internet to renew. Very fast and easy. Program includes permanent erase, which is a nice feature, and also works friendly with other anti-virus installed. Unlike some anti-virus programs that operate in the cloud, this one allows you to scan your files or computer without having to be connected to the Internet, even though overall the anti-virus works from the cloud.”

Another Amazon reviewer, DPOB, writes:

“Good program with very, very low drain on computing resources. Excellent for older, mid to lower end computers, due to it’s small footprint. Because of its cloud-based architecture, it is always current and updated. After the initial scan, most scans take a minute or two, running entirely in the background. A real relief after using resource hog competitor’s security suites!”

The best malware protection software to guard you from online threats

Originally costing nearly $90, this is one of the priciest options out on the market. However, after some deep discounts, the product is still more than worth it. Bitdefender offers a wide range of malware protection services, starting with complete protection for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android devices.
Their multi-layer ransomware creates more barriers to cyber criminals stealing your most precious data and information. There’s also a new feature of webcam protection, so you can forgo that paranoid piece of paper taped over your cam.
Bitdefender’s software also protects against email attacks and phishing. It offers a password manager to help keep track of all those different accounts. Additionally, unlike any of the other products we’ve encountered, it also features a file shredder.
Lastly, Bitdefender offers multiple options for parents who are hoping to protect their children from threats both on and off the computer. You can block inappropriate content, screen disturbing text messages and phone calls, allow your children to check in as “safe” in certain locations, and even get notifications if they’re outside of a safe zone.
As Matthew put it on Amazon reviews:

“I purchased this a while back because I needed some new antivirus software for my PC. I researched a lot and Bitdefender came up as the best and most affordable one around. I purchased five devices so after I made my Bitdefender account I installed it on my PC, phone, and other devices in the house. Since then I have fallen in love with Bitdefender! I really appreciate the many protection features like ransomware protection. For me it runs light and doesn’t bog down my system. I would recommend this product to anyone.”

Bots distorted the 2016 Election. Will the midterms be a sequel?

The fact that Russian-linked bots penetrated social media to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been well documented, and the details of the deception are still trickling out.

In fact, on Oct. 17 Twitter disclosed that foreign interference dating back to 2016 involved 4,611 accounts — most affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm. There were more than 10 million suspicious tweets and more than 2 million GIFs, videos and Periscope broadcasts.

In this season of another landmark election — a recent poll showed that about 62 percent of Americans believe the 2018 midterm elections are the most important midterms in their lifetime – it is natural to wonder if the public and private sectors have learned any lessons from the 2016 fiasco. And about what is being done to better protect against this malfeasance by nation-state actors.

There is good news and bad news here. Let’s start with the bad.

Two years after the 2016 election, social media still sometimes looks like a reality show called “Propagandists Gone Wild.” Hardly a major geopolitical event takes place in the world without automated bots generating or amplifying content that exaggerates the prevalence of a particular point of view.

In mid-October, Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts that simultaneously tweeted and retweeted pro-Saudi Arabia talking points about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On Oct. 22, the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian bots helped inflame the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Researchers from Clemson University told the newspaper that 491 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency posted more 12,000 tweets on the issue, with activity peaking soon after a Sept. 22, 2017 speech by President Trump in which he said team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the anthem.

The problem hasn’t persisted only in the United States. Two years after bots were blamed for helping sway the 2016 Brexit vote in Britain, Twitter bots supporting the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats increased significantly this spring and summer in the leadup to that country’s elections.

These and other examples of continuing misinformation-by-bot are troubling, but it’s not all doom and gloom.  I see positive developments too.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Nemanja Cosovic

First, awareness must be the first step in solving any problem, and cognizance of bot meddling has soared in the last two years amid all the disturbing headlines.

About two-thirds of Americans have heard of social media bots, and the vast majority of those people are worried bots are being used maliciously, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 4,500 U.S. adults conducted this summer. (It’s concerning, however, that much fewer of the respondents said they’re confident that can actually recognize when accounts are fake.)

Second, lawmakers are starting to take action. When California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 28 signed legislation making it illegal as of July 1, 2019 to use bots – to try to influence voter opinion or for any other purpose — without divulging the source’s artificial nature, it followed anti-ticketing-bot laws nationally and in New York State as the first bot-fighting statutes in the United States.

While I support the increase in awareness and focused interest by legislators, I do feel the California law has some holes. The measure is difficult to enforce because it’s often very hard to identify who is behind a bot network, the law’s penalties aren’t clear, and an individual state is inherently limited it what it can do to attack a national and global issue. However, the law is a good start and shows that governments are starting to take the problem seriously.

Third, the social media platforms — which have faced congressional scrutiny over their failure to address bot activity in 2016 – have become more aggressive in pinpointing and eliminating bad bots.

It’s important to remember that while they have some responsibility, Twitter and Facebook are victims here too, taken for a ride by bad actors who have hijacked these commercial platforms for their own political and ideological agendas.

While it can be argued that Twitter and Facebook should have done more sooner to differentiate the human from the non-human fakes in its user rolls, it bears remembering that bots are a newly acknowledged cybersecurity challenge. The traditional paradigm of a security breach has been a hacker exploiting a software vulnerability. Bots don’t do that – they attack online business processes and thus are difficult to detect though customary vulnerability scanning methods.

I thought there was admirable transparency in Twitter’s Oct. 17 blog accompanying its release of information about the extent of misinformation operations since 2016. “It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease,” the company said. “These types of tactics have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed — they will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge.”

Which leads to the fourth reason I’m optimistic: technological advances.

In the earlier days of the internet, in the late ‘90s and early 00’s, networks were extremely susceptible to worms, viruses and other attacks because protective technology was in its early stages of development. Intrusions still happen, obviously, but security technology has grown much more sophisticated and many attacks occur due to human error rather than failure of the defense systems themselves.

Bot detection and mitigation technology keeps improving, and I think we’ll get to a state where it becomes as automatic and effective as email spam filters are today. Security capabilities that too often are siloed within networks will integrate more and more into holistic platforms better able to detect and ward off bot threats.

So while we should still worry about bots in 2018, and the world continues to wrap its arms around the problem, we’re seeing significant action that should bode well for the future.

The health of democracy and companies’ ability to conduct business online may depend on it.