iPhones are widely considered to be more secure than Android phones when it comes to malware and viruses. However, iPhones are not completely immune to malicious software. There are some common iPhone viruses that users should be aware of.
History of iPhone Viruses
The first iPhone virus appeared in 2009, just two years after the first iPhone was released. Called “iPhone/Privacy.A”, it was able to extract personal data from infected devices. Another early iPhone virus was “Ikee”, discovered in Australia in 2011. Ikee was able to steal login credentials and Apple IDs from jailbroken iPhones.
In 2012, more than 500,000 iOS devices were infected by the “Flashback” trojan, which was originally found on Mac computers. Flashback was able to steal information from infected iPhones and iPads.
Major iPhone virus outbreaks have been relatively rare since then. Security improvements by Apple have made it increasingly difficult for viruses to infect iOS devices. However, new iPhone malware continues to be discovered occasionally.
Technical Limitations of iPhone Viruses
There are a few reasons why iPhones tend to get fewer viruses than Android devices:
- Apple’s tight control over iOS – All iOS apps are reviewed by Apple before being allowed in the App Store. This helps prevent malicious apps from being distributed.
- Sandboxing – iOS apps are restricted in what data they can access, limiting the damage a malicious app can do.
- App diversity – There are fewer iOS variants to target compared to the fragmentation of Android.
- Security updates – Apple is able to push security updates to all users quickly when vulnerabilities are found.
However, iPhones are still vulnerable under certain conditions:
- Jailbroken iPhones – Jailbreaking removes many iOS security restrictions, increasing vulnerability.
- Out-of-date devices – Older iPhones may miss important security updates, leaving them exposed.
- Sideloading untrusted apps – Apps from outside the App Store carry higher risk.
- Visiting suspicious websites – Malicious web content can sometimes infect iPhones.
5 Most Common Current iPhone Viruses
Here are 5 of the most prevalent iPhone malware threats active today:
Pegasus is spyware developed by the NSO Group that is capable of extracting data from iPhones without the owner’s knowledge. It has been used to target journalists, activists, and government officials. Pegasus can access messages, emails, and track location among other capabilities.
XcodeGhost was injected into legitimate iOS apps by tampering with the Xcode development platform. Apps infected with XcodeGhost could access sensitive user data from devices. It has affected thousands of apps, including major services like WeChat.
YiSpecter is Android malware that was tweaked to also infect iOS devices in 2015. It could download other malicious apps onto iPhones and iPads. YiSpecter exploited enterprise certificate verification weaknesses to infect non-jailbroken devices.
AceDeceiver exploits iOS DRM protection mechanisms to install itself when users sync their iPhone to iTunes. It can bypass Apple’s app review process by manipulating FairPlay DRM to make itself appear as an authorized app.
WireLurker is an extensive malware operation that relies on a combination of OS X and iOS infections. The OS X malware monitors for iOS devices connecting over USB and installs infected apps on the iPhone or iPad. It was capable of stealing a variety of information from mobile devices.
Warning Signs of an Infected iPhone
Here are some signs that an iPhone may be infected by a virus or malware:
- Unexpected pop-up ads appear frequently
- Apps crashing or freezing unexpectedly
- Sluggish performance and slowdowns
- Unknown apps installed on your Home screen
- Higher than expected mobile data usage
- iPhone getting hot when not in heavy use
- Reduced battery life
While one of these issues alone may not indicate an infection, several combined could signal a problem. If anything seems unusual with your iPhone, it pays to be cautious and investigate further.
Protecting Your iPhone from Viruses
Here are 5 tips to improve your protection against iPhone viruses and malware:
1. Avoid Jailbreaking
Jailbreaking removes the security barriers that prevent infections. Never jailbreak an iPhone unless absolutely necessary and you fully understand the risks.
2. Install iOS Updates
iOS updates often contain vital security fixes. Install them as soon as possible to protect against newly discovered exploits.
3. Only Use Trusted Apps
Download apps only from the official App Store, never from unknown sources. Also read reviews and ratings before installing apps.
4. Don’t Click Suspicious Links
Links in phishing emails, texts, and questionable websites can lead to malware. Exercise caution before clicking any links.
5. Use Strong Passwords
A weak or reused password makes it easier for malware to access your personal data. Use unique, complex passwords for all accounts.
How to Remove an iPhone Virus
If you suspect your iPhone has been infected, here are the steps to take:
- Delete any suspicious or unknown apps.
- Run a reputable anti-virus app to scan for threats.
- Restore your iPhone to factory settings if necessary.
- Change passwords, especially for iCloud, email, and financial accounts.
- Avoid syncing content to uninfected devices until the issue is resolved.
In most cases, restoring your iPhone to factory default settings will clear any infection. Make sure to backup your data first, and only restore a clean backup after resetting your device.
While iPhones have strong defenses against viruses and malware, they are not invulnerable. A small number of iPhone viruses have caused trouble for users over the years. The most common current threats take advantage of jailbreaking, enterprise certificates, or iOS DRM protection.
Practicing basic security measures goes a long way towards keeping your iPhone infection-free. Maintaining vigilance about unusual behavior, system slowdowns, and unknown apps can help spot any malware that evades iPhone security defenses. Acting quickly to delete suspicious apps, run anti-virus scans, change passwords, and restore your device will limit the damage caused by any successful malware attacks.