iPhones do not get traditional viruses like computers, but they can still get malware. There is no built-in virus scanner on iPhones that will notify you if malware is detected. However, there are signs you can watch out for that may indicate your iPhone has been infected with malware, such as increased data usage, unexpected pop-ups, sluggish performance, hot phone, and strange behavior. Being careful what you download, using trusted WiFi networks, keeping your iPhone up-to-date, and installing a reputable security app can help prevent and detect malware.
What is a virus?
A virus is a type of malicious software (“malware”) that infects devices and spreads by replicating itself. Computer viruses are programs designed to spread from one computer to another and interfere with computer operation. Traditional computer viruses spread through executable files and bootstrap themselves when those infected files are shared between computers.
Common ways computer viruses spread
- Downloading infected files from the internet
- Opening email attachments that contain viruses
- Inserting infected removable media like USB sticks
- Visiting compromised websites that automatically download viruses
- Clicking on malicious links and pop-up windows
Once a virus has infected a computer, it can do things like delete files, encrypt files for ransom, install spyware, send spam, give hackers access, and cause a variety of other problems. Antivirus software is used to detect and remove viruses from computers.
Do iPhones get viruses?
iPhones and iOS do not suffer from traditional computer viruses that self-replicate and infect other files on the device. This is because of fundamental differences in how iOS and traditional computer operating systems like Windows work.
Some key reasons iPhones don’t get traditional viruses:
- iOS is derived from Unix and uses sandboxing to isolate apps from each other and the system. This prevents viruses from spreading between apps.
- The iOS App Store has stringent requirements for apps. Apple reviews every app before it is published to ensure it is safe and secure.
- iPhones cannot install unverified apps from third-party sources by default, reducing the risk of viruses.
- iOS system files and resources are encrypted and read-only so they cannot be modified by a virus.
However, iPhones and iOS are still susceptible to malware – malicious software that affects the operation of the device. This malware has to be specifically designed and targeted for iOS.
Can iPhones get malware?
Yes, iPhones can be infected by malware designed to affect iOS devices. Examples of iPhone malware include:
- Spyware that logs activity and sends data to hackers
- Adware that bombards the device with pop-up ads
- Ransomware that locks files until a ransom is paid
- Banking trojans that steal financial information
- Click fraud malware that generates fake ad revenue
Malware targeting iPhones is quite rare, but it is on the rise as iOS devices have become more popular. Malware can be distributed through:
- Shady third-party app stores
- Enticing links sent via SMS, email, messaging apps
- Infected websites
- Public WiFi networks
- Physical access when the device is unlocked
Jailbreaking an iPhone makes it much more vulnerable to malware since jailbreaking bypasses iOS protections.
Does iPhone have anti-virus?
iPhones do not come with traditional antivirus software like you might find on Windows PCs. There are some reasons for this:
- Built-in iOS security features minimize the need for third-party antivirus.
- Apple restricts background activity for apps, limiting their ability to scan.
- Allowing full access for antivirus could create privacy/security issues.
However, Apple has implemented some under the hood malware protections in iOS:
- XProtect: Detects and blocks known iOS malware on devices.
- MRT: Scans devices remotely and removes threats.
- iVerify: Performs runtime verification of apps for safety.
But there is no simple virus scanner that runs in the background and alerts you of issues like on Windows.
How to tell if your iPhone has a virus
Since there is no antivirus scanner, how can you tell if malware has infected your iPhone? Here are some signs to watch out for:
Increased data usage
Malware may be secretly using background data to send info to hackers or download additional malware. Monitor your cellular and WiFi data usage in settings and watch for spikes.
Malware can place a strain on system resources, causing slowdowns and lag. Your iPhone may seem generally sluggish or be slow to launch apps.
Malware that hijacks system resources may cause your iPhone to run hot. Note any unusual or prolonged overheating.
Shortened battery life
Increased data usage and overtaxed system resources caused by malware can drain your iPhone’s battery abnormally fast.
Adware and popup malware cause frequent random pop-ups, alerts, and notifications, often advertising questionable products.
Some malware triggers repeated vibrations to simulate notifications and trick you into tapping infected links or ads.
SMS/calls from unknown numbers
Spyware may be stealing your contacts to spam others from your phone. Watch for texts/calls not matching anyone in your contacts.
Strange or erratic behavior
Malware may cause random crashes, freezes, unauthorized password changes, settings changes, or activation of features like airdrop against your will.
Suspicious app activity
Closely monitor which apps you have installed and watch for any apps behaving suspiciously in the background or requesting unnecessary permissions.
Protecting your iPhone from malware
Here are some tips to keep your iPhone malware-free:
- Only download apps from the official App Store, avoid third parties.
- Keep your iPhone updated with the latest iOS version.
- Avoid jailbreaking your iPhone.
- Use secured WiFi networks instead of public WiFi.
- Don’t click suspicious links in emails/texts/messages.
- Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication.
- Back up your iPhone regularly in case you need to wipe it.
- Consider installing a trustworthy security app for additional protection.
Reputable security apps like Lookout and MalwareBytes can help detect and remove malware if your iPhone does get infected. But prevention is the best medicine when it comes to smartphone malware.
Can I scan my iPhone for viruses?
There is no built-in virus scanning tool for iOS like there is for Windows. However, you can manually scan your iPhone for malware using a security app. Some options:
Lookout Security & Antivirus
Lookout is a respected security app for iPhone that actively monitors for malware and phishing threats. It scans apps, files, and networks for any suspicious activity indicative of malware. The basic version is free but premium adds features like data breach alerts and WiFi security tools.
MalwareBytes Mobile Security
MalwareBytes makes popular antivirus software for Windows/Mac. Their Mobile Security app for iOS provides malware scanning capabilities along with features like web protection, app privacy audit, and device security overview. There is a free and premium version.
iVerify by Trail of Bits
iVerify is an open source security app by Trail of Bits that examines other apps on your iPhone for malware or privacy issues. It performs static and dynamic analysis to detect suspicious behavior or security flaws. Completely free with no ads or paid upgrades.
VirusBarrier Mobile uses traditional antivirus scanning techniques to proactively detect malware on iOS devices. It checks apps, media files, and cloud storage against an ever-updating database of malware signatures. Free trial but subscription required for ongoing protection.
While not immune, iPhones are reasonably secure against malware if precautions are taken. There is no built-in virus scanning but third-party apps can detect and remove malware. Watch for telltale signs of infection like performance issues. Stay vigilant downloading apps only from the App Store, using strong passwords, avoiding public WiFi, and keeping your iPhone’s OS up to date. Using a trusted security app as an extra layer of defense is recommended to actively monitor your iPhone for anything suspicious.