Do iPhones Get Viruses?
If you are reading this, you may have just encountered something weird on your iPhone that is causing you to worry. Whether it’s a flashing message that says “VIRUS DETECTED” or strange, buggy behavior while using certain apps, the threat of a virus is always a worry to anyone using computers.
Thankfully, iPhones and the operating system they run on, iOS, have some of the best malware (software designed with bad intent) protection in the entire world. Many people recognize iOS as the most secure and widely deployed operating system (OS) in the world. Still, it is possible, though exceedingly rare, to get malware on your iPhone. Today, we are going to be taking a look at some of the various possibilities, as well as some of the best solutions to take in the situation that you are in some trouble.
Let’s get started.
What Kind of Viruses Can an iPhone Get?
As a general rule, iPhones don’t get viruses. If you are concerned or worried you may have one, the first thing you should do is a simple hard reset of your device. For most iPhones, holding down the power button until the screen goes black, waiting for a few minutes, and then turning it on again is enough to solve any bug or error that is occurring. It’s recommended to hard boot your iPhone occasionally to keep things running smoothly! Still, if you’ve done that and still think you have a virus, keep reading.
Here are some of the potential viruses you can get on an iPhone:
One of the most common ways that people try and attack iPhone users is through an online attack. While this may seem scary, it actually isn’t a threat once you know about it. The goal of a web-based attack is to convince you that you have a virus, even though you don’t. They usually flash “VIRUS DETECTED” or something of the sort at you and make it hard to leave the webpage.
Usually, a place to get rid of the “virus” is offered … for a fee, of course. This usually comes in the form of an online form or a phone number to call, but this “virus removal” is a scam. Never fill out the credit card form or call the number. If you were simply surfing the web and a site is telling you that you have a virus, simply close the app and restart it. This isn’t a virus – Just a scheme to steal your money.
App or Source-code Breaches
For most people, the only real way they could potentially encounter malware on their iPhone is if an App on the Appstore has been compromised. In the real world, this happened with a malware attack known as XcodeGhost (or XcodeGhost S). Essentially, official iOS developers in China were downloading source code from third-party websites because downloading it from the official Apple Servers was taking too long. The code they downloaded was contaminated and was able to infect Apps, allowing them to download and initiate backdoor installations of malicious files. The attack was mostly relegated to China, but apps like WeChat and China Unicom Mobile Office were affected.
Attacks like these are rare, and the average user can’t do much to stop them from happening in the first place. The best practices to minimize potential damage are to:
- Always keep your apps updated as new security patches are rolled out with each update.
- Keep up-to-date with the news. If a large-scale attack is present, it will get famous pretty fast.
- Be wary of phishing attempts. Phishing is the practice of trying to steal your information by tricking you into giving it to hackers, usually through a spoofed (fake) email or website.
For most users, Jailbreaking isn’t something they would need to worry about. For those who currently have a jailbroken device, however, viruses are significantly more likely. Jailbreaking is essentially the removal of certain restrictions imposed by the creator of the software, in this case, Apple. Usually, people jailbreak devices for more freedom, especially in their control of the parameters of their phones.
Jailbroken phones can run customized software and much more. A side effect associated with jailbreaking, however, is an increased potential for malware. Jailbreaking allows the sideloading of software onto an iPhone. All software typically runs through the App Store’s process and is strictly monitored, but jailbreaking bypasses that. You can download cracked apps without using the App Store, but you lose the protection that the App Store’s process provides. This greatly increases the chances of installing software that can exploit this lack of protection.
Not jailbreaking your device is the safest way to keep from accidentally sideloading malicious software onto your device.
Part of what makes viruses so tricky is that hackers are always evolving. There are always new ways and exploits that are being attacked with regularity. Sometimes, one of those exploits actually works, and a new method for installing malware is discovered. Thankfully, Apple is extremely diligent about keeping up-to-date with any potential threats to iOS. Still, it’s important to know that any device that connects to the Internet is a device that could, theoretically, be hacked.
Why Are Viruses On an iPhone So Rare?
Although viruses are scary, the vast majority of users have nothing to worry about. iPhone and iOS are highly tested and designed from the ground up with security in mind. Let’s go over a few of the things that make iOS so safe. There are more, but these are some of the most innovative.
The App Store
The App Store, without a doubt, is one of the biggest deterrents for potential hackers and those with malicious intent. Every single app and program that runs on iOS is downloaded from the App Store. Even more, iOS can’t run anything NOT from the App Store. Additionally, Apple is extremely diligent about checking every program and app that is placed on the App Store. If it’s on there, it’s been checked. If it’s later revealed that there could potentially be something malicious, it’s removed from the App Store immediately. The only way around the App Store is through jailbreaking your device.
Apple hardware will only boot code that is cryptographically signed code from Apple. Unless you have access to Apple’s signing keys, you can’t get iPhones to boot software. If malicious code doesn’t have the special credentials, it won’t run.
One of the most unique aspects of iOS is its process of “sandboxing” its apps. A sandbox is a digital space that is like a safe space within a digital space where nothing can escape. If you are a fan of Doctor Strange, it’s quite literally like the Mirror Dimension where they train, knowing they can’t hurt the real world. Each of Apple’s apps runs in one of these sandboxes and can’t interact with each other unless they have access to certain API credentials (special passes). If something is breaching in one of these apps, it can’t impact the rest of the system.
Aside from software, iPhones have physical protection built into their new devices, namely their A7 chip and beyond. Known as “Secure Enclave,” the new A7 processors have an isolated hardware filter that has its bit of encrypted RAM. Highly confidential information is processed using this highly advanced and isolated processor core, including TouchID, FaceID, and more.
How Do You Protect Your iPhone From A Virus?
Although having an iPhone is a great way to reduce the potential for a virus, there are a few additional steps you can take.
First, never jailbreak your device. If you decide to remove the barriers that Apple has placed to protect you from viruses, you are increasing the potential of a malware attack. For most people, however, this isn’t an issue.
Second, always keep your device up-to-date. Fresh security patches come out daily and need to be installed. Make sure your apps from the App Store are updated and make sure your iPhone is running the most updated software available. Additionally, when Apple stops support on a device, it’s time to upgrade.
Third, be aware of scams. Don’t trust websites, don’t download “virus cleaners,” and don’t give out your personal information. Even if something seems legit, phishing scams are designed to trick you. Get professional help and call the actual Apple line if you don’t know what to do, but make sure you get the number yourself.
If you do all that, the odds of getting a virus on your iPhone are extremely low. Enjoy!