While iOS devices have long been touted as more secure than their Android counterparts, questions still linger about their vulnerability to cyber threats.
Are iPhones and iPads truly immune to viruses and malware? In this article, we will explore the intricate layers of security that safeguard iOS devices, debunk some common myths, and uncover any potential weaknesses in Apple’s fortress-like defences.
What Does iOS Do to Keep You Safe?
Let’s look at the features built into iOS to see why it typically doesn’t suffer from viruses.
App Store Controls
Apple’s “walled garden” approach to iOS apps protects its users. In contrast to Android, where programmes may be “sideloaded” from anywhere, the only official option to install iOS apps is via the App Store. In principle, this implies that the millions of available apps are secure. Apple manually evaluates every app a developer submits to the App Store. Apps that contain malicious code or exhibit risky behaviour are rejected. This approach is not flawless, but it eliminates the vast majority of harmful applications that would otherwise be available for download by everyone.
iOS includes a security method called sandboxing to ensure that applications do not exceed their limits. This effectively prevents any installed program from accessing data from other applications. In addition, the vast majority of iOS applications function under a restricted account.
Apps cannot change system settings or inflict harm without access to the root (administrator) account. This practically means that even if a malicious application is successfully installed, it will not have complete access to the operating system and its data.
Timely iOS Updates
Keeping your operating system up to date is one of the best ways to protect against malware. This is another area in which iOS has a huge advantage over Android.
When Apple releases a new version of iOS, all compatible devices get it right away. Look at the breakdown of iOS installations, and you’ll see that most users run the latest version.
This isn’t the case with Android. A fragmented update cycle means that most users wait months for updates, and some never see them at all. Thus, keeping their phones updated keeps iPhone users safe from old exploits.
Problems Not Caused by Malware
While it’s true that iOS devices are less likely to be infected by malware, there are still some ways that criminals can target them. For example, phishing attacks are a common way to trick people into installing malicious software on their devices.
And while the App Store does a good job of vetting apps, there have been some instances of malicious apps slipping through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant when downloading apps, and only to download apps from trusted sources.
Jailbreaking Is a Security Risk
As a result, the typical iPhone user shouldn’t have to worry about getting a virus. However, we failed to account for the biggest threat to iOS users’ privacy: jailbreaking. If you haven’t heard of jailbreaking before, it’s a process through which you may gain access to your iPhone as an administrator and remove any restrictions imposed by Apple. Once an iPhone has been “jailbroken,” users have the freedom to install software from wherever they like and make alterations to the operating system in ways that would otherwise be impossible.
Jailbreaking can make your iPhone more vulnerable to malware and hacking. Unauthorised apps from unknown sources can contain malware that can infect your device. And since jailbroken iPhones are not as secure as non-jailbroken iPhones, they can be more susceptible to hacking.
What About iOS Antivirus Apps?
You might wonder why the App Store has plenty of antivirus apps available if there’s little risk of malware on iOS. When you take a look at these apps, however, it’s evident that they really don’t provide any utility.
Apps like Lookout, Avira, and Norton don’t scan for viruses on your iPhone. They can’t do this due to the sandboxing we discussed earlier. Yet most offer a similar set of features, including:
- Phone locator and alarm
- Protection from dangerous websites
- Notifications about iOS updates
There’s one problem with this: you already have access to all these features!
The Find My iPhone feature is built into iOS and lets you locate your phone or sound an alarm. Safari and other iOS browsers display warnings if you visit shady sites. And you’ll see a badge on the Settings app when an iOS update is available.
Other capabilities, such as VPNs and account monitoring, are best left to specialised programs. While these “antivirus” applications are not harmful, they are at best redundant versions of functions you already have. However, they do offer some features.
Your iPhone Should Never Get Malware.
Now that we’ve examined all the angles of malware on iOS, we can answer the question: can your iPhone get viruses?
Malware could, in theory, get on an iPhone, but if you are careful and take basic security steps, your iPhone should stay virus-free. Keep your iPhone free of malware by not jailbreaking it, regularly updating your iOS, and only installing apps from trusted sources. While it’s unlikely that you’ll come across an app tainted with malware like XcodeGhost, avoiding unknown developers and programmes can help you remain safe.
Yes, iOS devices are protected from viruses and malware. This is because iOS is a closed system and only allows apps to be installed from the App Store. So, any app on the App Store has been checked out by Apple and is not likely to be harmful.
However, that doesn’t mean that iOS devices are completely immune to viruses and malware. There have been instances where malicious apps have made it onto the App Store and have infected iOS devices. Therefore, it’s important to be cautious when downloading and installing apps, even if they’re from the App Store. In general, though, iOS devices are much less susceptible to viruses and malware than devices that run other operating systems. This is one of the benefits of using an iPhone or iPad.