More users than you might think ask how to tell if they have a virus on their iPhone or iPad . In recent times, certain websites have launched pop-ups with the intention of tricking users into downloading an app or signing up for a paid service to protect their device. In this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know about this topic.
The short explanation: no virus on your iPhone or iPad
This is the short explanation. Under normal conditions, an iPhone or any iOS device cannot have a virus . We understand by virus a:
Under normal conditions, an iPhone or iPad cannot be infected by a virus
iOS is the operating system of your iPhone or iPad, of which Apple has strict control and security. Among other security measures, Apple uses sandboxing to isolate processes and apps, preventing system crashes, errors and apps from performing unauthorized actions. iOS also has an App Store as the only way to install apps on your devices, a store that is under direct supervision of Apple: each app is reviewed before being approved.
That said, your iPhone or iPad is not 100% virus-free . No operating system is completely safe.
The long explanation: iOS is not infallible
The security measures created by Apple to prevent viruses from entering your iPhone or iPad are not perfect . iOS can have errors that have not yet been discovered and without a solution from Apple, but certain hackers do know and figure out how to exploit them to their advantage. These errors are not frequent, as Apple is constantly tracking their systems in search of them, in order to correct them as soon as possible.
A well-known example was the Pegasus case. More than an iPhone virus, it was malware or malicious code that takes advantage of this type of error to gain unauthorized access to certain features and functions of a device, as we said then:
In 2015, a series of iOS vulnerabilities were discovered and exploited to spy on citizens by the government of Saudi Arabia, a mistake already corrected by Apple
But you don’t have to worry about this particular bug, because Apple corrected it two years ago with iOS 9.3.5. In the case of apps, there have also been some with obscure intentions that have slipped through the filters and revision of the App Store. Two years ago, for example, Apple removed several Chinese apps that had been developed with counterfeit development tools.
In both cases, Apple reacted quickly with an iOS security update or the removal of affected apps to limit their negative impact as soon as possible. Other platforms do not have as easy to fix the problems as in the case of the iPhone and Apple.
What can I do to avoid viruses on my iPhone
If you are concerned about the possibility of your iPhone or iPad becoming infected with a virus or malware , these are the recommendations we can give you:
- Keep your device always up to date. iOS updates issued by Apple often contain bug fixes and security enhancements.
- Avoid doing the jailbreak to your device. The jailbreak is increasingly difficult to perform, but it allows you to install apps not allowed by Apple in the App Store or download apps without paying for them. But by jailbreak, you open the door also to other security risks that iOS normally protects you from.
- Always avoid opening suspicious links, whether you receive them by email, SMS, iMessage or other means. Messages written with spelling mistakes, in foreign languages or with strange expressions should raise the alarm.
- Another way to compromise your devices used by criminals is to trick you into giving them your passwords. Often posing as Apple or another trusted provider. NEVER send your passwords over the Internet or to someone who asks you for them by phone.
- Set up two-factor authentication to increase the security of your Apple ID and other services you use. Here’s how to activate it on your Apple account.
- Configure and use Touch ID or Face ID so that no one can access your device. Set a 6-digit lock code instead of 4. Many security exploits require physical access to the device.
- Always avoid connecting to WiFi networks that are not password protected. It’s tempting to do so during the vacations, but you’d be exposing all your network traffic to whoever is watching. Use a VPN if absolutely necessary.
Other options like installing an anti-virus app will only waste your time and money . Those sold on the App Store as antivirus actually have features that are already integrated into your iPhone or iPad, such as photo protection, backup, or searching for the device when it’s lost.
Horror! I think my iPhone has a virus
The top image is the typical pop-up that appears in some dubious (or legitimate) web pages with the intention of tricking you into paying to “get rid” of viruses that don’t exist. This is not necessary because your device is usually not infected. Apple explains how to solve this problem in iOS 9.3 onwards if it becomes persistent:
If your case is different and you think you may have a virus on your iPhone, try the following:
- Update your device to the latest version available from Settings , General , Software Updates.
- Clear Safari cookies from Safari Settings ; Clear History and Website Data. This will erase all user and password data you have entered in web forms, so you will have to enter it again the next time you visit.
- Update apps to their latest version if you notice that strange behavior of your iPhone occurs when you are in a third party app. Checking the apps that consume the most battery can give you a clue, go to Settings , Battery to find out.
- The “nuclear option” is the last resort if all else fails. It consists of restoring your iPhone and configuring it as a new device. That is, when you restore it, don’t install the last backup you made. You will have to configure every aspect of your iPhone manually.
Usar iOS no te exime de vulnerabilidades: ¿qué debes hacer para que tus cuentas no sean víctimas de un ciberataque?
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If you are not sure how to proceed, make an appointment at an Apple Store or Apple-authorized retailer.
This is all we can tell you if you were wondering how to tell if your iPhone has a virus. For any questions, you can leave us a comment below.