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Can iPhones Get Viruses? Tips To Safeguard Your Phone

a cell phone with a virus graphic on it

Everyone knows the dangers of accidentally clicking on a suspicious link and getting infected with a computer virus. But while you might have antivirus software installed on your desktop or laptop, odds are you haven’t taken the same precautions with your iPhone. Does that matter? Can iPhones even get viruses?

It is rare for iPhones to get viruses for a few reasons we’ll get into below. But what you should remember is that, like any device, iPhones have vulnerabilities that leave them susceptible to malware. Let’s get into a detailed exploration of what iPhone malware risks are, the security measures you can take to prevent them, and how to fix your phone if it gets infected by malware.

Of course, sometimes your phone is infected beyond repair. If your iPhone has malware and you can’t get rid of it, Navi can help you find and compare the best deals on a new iPhone based on your personal needs. Try our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder today.

Do iPhones Get Viruses? Virus Versus Malware on iPhones

What is an iPhone virus? A virus is a specific type of malware that can replicate itself and spread from one device to another. It usually attaches itself to a legitimate program or file and can cause harm by corrupting or destroying data. 

However, on iPhones, It is much rarer to get a virus on your iPhone than on another mobile device like an Android phone. The same is true for viruses on an Apple Macbook or iMac computer compared to a Windows PC or desktop. That’s because Apple's iOS and Mac operating systems both use a closed ecosystem. Apple maintains strict control over the hardware, software, and even the apps that can be installed on an iPhone. This tight integration and control make it harder for viruses to penetrate the system and spread themselves.

Plus, iOS apps operate in a "sandbox" environment, which means they are restricted in what they can do and access on the device. This limits the potential damage that a virus could do even if it did manage to get onto the device. Unlike Android, iOS does not easily allow users to install apps from anywhere other than the official App Store, where apps are very carefully vetted, making it much less likely that you’ll download a compromised app or virus.

All this reduces the risk of users inadvertently installing viruses unless their phone is jailbroken, which removes those security measures. Still, your iPhone isn’t completely immune to problems. Like all devices, iPhones can be the target of malicious software called malware through a phishing attack or by visiting a malicious website. Common vulnerabilities include:

  • Phishing scams, which you may encounter over email
  • Malicious software like malware
  • Malicious apps tailored to iPhone users, which may lead to overheating

If this happens, you might notice signs and symptoms like:

  • Your operating system runs much more slowly
  • Your phone overheats because malware is using CPU resources and memory
  • Your phone’s data usage goes up
  • You notice strange third-party apps or files on your iPhone
  • Your apps regularly crash
  • Your battery drains more quickly than usual

All in all, your iPhone probably won’t get a virus, but you may get malware on your iPhone. Here’s how you can minimize your risks.

How Can You Safeguard Your iPhone From Cyberattacks?

Even though the chances of getting an iPhone virus are slim, it’s a good idea to safeguard your iPhone from digital threats. You can do this in a few easy ways.

Update the iOS

Updating your iPhone’s iOS is a great and simple way to prevent viruses. Updates often include security patches that fix vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious software. Your iPhone will prompt you to update automatically from time to time. But you can manually do this by:

  • Opening the Settings Apps
  • Tapping General
  • Tapping Software Update
  • Tapping Download and Install

Then follow the on-screen instructions, and you’ll complete the update in minutes.

Don’t Download Suspicious Apps or Files

If an app isn’t on the Apple App Store, try to avoid it. That’s the best way to make sure that all the applications on your phone are verified and virus-free.

Never download any suspicious apps or files showing signs of malware. Concerning signs include if the app requires permissions that seem unnecessary for its functionality, or if the app has very few reviews and spelling mistakes. If a file downloads automatically when you visit a website, or if an app installs itself without your explicit permission, immediately delete the file or app without opening it.

Similarly, don’t download apps or files from sources you don’t completely trust. This extends to work sources as well. If you have to download work files, try to do so on a secure network, like your workplace’s secure cloud network.

Never give any suspicious apps permission to access your iPhone or iPad. Spyware often relies on permissions, so don’t download apps you don’t need to.

Use an Anti-Malware App

It’s also a good idea to download and regularly use an antivirus app to scan your iPhone. Anti-malware apps from developers like Avast are a free and easy way to keep your phone clean and running smoothly for years to come.

Once an antivirus app is installed on your phone, it will automatically shield you from many types of malware or suspicious traffic you may encounter while browsing.

Don’t Visit Suspicious Sites

Just like you shouldn’t download suspicious files, you should also not visit any suspicious websites. Try to keep your web browsing to sites with SSL certification or a padlock symbol in the address bar.

Use a VPN

A VPN or virtual private network is a handy tool when browsing online using a public Wi-Fi network on your iOS device. Hackers sometimes set up what’s called a “Wi-Fi pineapple,” or a fake free Wi-Fi network, to get access to your data when you inadvertently connect to the fake Wi-Fi network. By using a VPN to mask your IP address, you make your iPhone that much harder to hack by a would-be identity thief or digital criminal.

You can download iPhone VPN applications from the app store. Generally, paying for a good VPN app to boost your iPhone security is better than settling for a free, subpar service.

How Can You Get Rid of Malware on an iPhone?

What if the worst happens, and you suspect there’s malware – or even a virus – on your iPhone? In that case, you can get rid of malware using these methods.

Delete Suspicious Apps

See some odd or unfamiliar apps you don’t remember downloading on your home screen? Delete those suspicious apps ASAP, as they indicate a malware infection.

The longer you leave those apps to linger, the worse they may make your phone perform and the more damage they can cause.

Use Anti-Malware Apps 

Download and use an anti-malware app like Avast. Not only are these apps good for malware prevention, but free and paid anti-malware apps offer malware removal services. During these services, they scan your phone, identify malware and other suspicious software types, and try to remove them using specialized software tools.

These apps are not infallible, however. Some malware can escape their scans, and others may be impossible to remove without advanced assistance. It’s also worth noting that the effectiveness of such apps is limited on iPhones due to the same iOS restrictions that make iPhones difficult to infect with malware or viruses. Sandboxing and closed ecosystems mean anti-malware apps can't perform deep system scans or remove other apps.

Restore a Previous Backup Version

If you regularly create backup versions of your phone, you have a snapshot of what your phone was like in the past. Imagine you create a backup on Monday, then accidentally install malware on Tuesday. You can time-machine your phone back to the Monday version, which restores your phone to the way it was before the malware.

This does mean you’ll lose any files or downloads you made between the backup date and the current version of your iPhone, but that may be a price you’re willing to pay.

Before you do this, you should make 100 percent certain that your previous backup wasn’t compromised, too.

Reset to Factory Settings

This is the scorched earth tactic. As a last-ditch effort, you can try a factory reset to remove all files on your phone which requires you to reinstall all apps aside from the default Apple-sponsored collection. You’ll also lose all your files, photos, documents, and apps.

To factory reset your phone:

  • Backup all of your iPhone files to iTunes or perform an iCloud on a desktop computer
  • Go to Settings
  • Click General, then Transfer or Reset iPhone
  • Then click Erase All Content and Settings

After a few minutes, your iPhone will reboot and essentially be as good as new. Hopefully, this will wipe away any malware that piggybacked onto your device via a cookie or suspicious app.

The Bottom Line

While iPhones probably won’t get viruses, they are not immune to other malware. But it’s possible to prevent malware infection on your iPhone with some common-sense strategies. Even if your phone has already been compromised, there are steps you can take to remove the malware.

If your iPhone is compromised beyond repair, or just isn’t working as well as it used to, it might be time for a new mobile device. That’s where our Phone Deal Finder can help. It’s free, unbiased, and shows you the best iPhone deals you qualify for from top carriers based on your needs.

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