Years ago, Apple fans proudly argued – some still do – that iPhones and other products from the manufacturer were immune to malwares. But how true is this statement? Although it is true that the probability of finding a virus on the iPhone is less, the threats affect all devices connected to the Internet, regardless of the manufacturer they are.
While there is a strong perception that Android is insecure, not much is heard about iOS. As we said, many people believe that Apple iPhones are not vulnerable to viruses or malware, but what is the truth of the matter? Could it be that iPhones can contract a virus? To answer this and other questions, we spoke to a technology expert.
“In theory, yes. IPhones can contract a virus, ”Maik Morgenstern, chief technology officer for AV-Test , told Digital Trends . “However, the practical obstacles are quite high and a normal user is unlikely to be affected. But there are vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. “
People tend to use the word “virus” to describe any unwanted software, but technically speaking, the term refers to software that first infects a host, inserts itself into an existing program, and then spreads that infection by self-replication. Viruses are only a small percentage of malware (malicious software, the true general term), and are especially rare on smartphones. If you receive a mysterious pop-up message, or an application logs your data and sends it to a remote server, you may interpret it as a virus, although it is probably another type of malware.
First thing: how secure is iOS?
Apple has been criticized for its walled approach and for not allowing as much choice and customization as some of the other competing alternatives, but there are some benefits of being more restrictive.
“Since iOS is a closed ecosystem, users can only install apps from the App Store that Apple previously thoroughly reviews,” explains Morgenstern. “Malware creators are unlikely to insert malware into the Apple store.”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course, and there have been incidents where legitimate apps in the iOS App Store were infected with malware. In one of those cases, cybercriminals were able to trick some app developers into using a counterfeit version of an Apple tool that contained malware.
“Another vector of infection could be a vulnerability in the operating system, in this case iOS, that allows attackers to infect your device,” Morgenstern said.
Precisely, in 2017, WikiLeaks published details of the hacking tools used by the CIA . The report included some methods the intelligence agency had used to access iPhones by exploiting vulnerabilities in iOS. Apple hastened to issue a statement saying that most of the vulnerabilities had already been fixed and that the rest would soon be. However, this shows that it is perfectly plausible that someone is currently exploiting some vulnerability in the system.
“It is perfectly plausible that someone is currently exploiting some vulnerability in the system”
One of the reasons that iOS is relatively secure compared to Android is that cybercriminals and other attackers will seek the path of least resistance first. What happens is that many of the vulnerabilities discovered in Android are not patched on all devices. Google can act quickly, but updates only reach some phones when the manufacturer and supplier decide. Apple doesn’t have this problem, so patches can be removed much more quickly. There are also many more users of Android devices, making it a bigger target.
What are the common threats that exist on all platforms?
Phishing or phishing attacks , in which people are tricked into giving out personal information or sensitive data, are common on iOS and Android, because they don’t necessarily require people to install any app. A victim can be presented with what appears to be a legitimate login screen for any popular service, but which has actually been created by hackers, and when people enter their login details, they are giving them to criminals.
“Platforms like WhatsApp have become one of the most popular targets for this type of attack”
There has also been an increase in smishing , which is actually phishing through emails or text messages on various mobile platforms, and WhatsApp has become one of the most popular targets of this type of attack and malicious messages. People can receive what appears to be a regular message from a known company, with a link on it, and if they click on this link, they are redirected to a fake (visually legitimate) website where they are asked for more. personal information or details to access your account, or a malware download of some kind is triggered. These types of messages have all kinds of disguises, from tax refunds to security warnings you need to update your bank details.
Being deceived by these types of fraud should be easy to avoid: Just never log in to any of your accounts through links that come to you in emails, text messages or social media messages. What you must do is write the address in your browser, or log in through the official and verified application of the company.
Malware is not like a thief breaking into your home in the middle of the night, but like someone cheating on you and taking advantage of you opening the door: it has to be invited to your iPhone. Since by default you cannot install applications from outside the App Store, if you get an unexpected pop-up message trying to install something, don’t invite it.
There is also the risk that some ads or redirects to web pages appear that annoy you with pop-ups that appear on your screen, often saying that you have won something, or that there is a problem on your phone that you must fix by clicking on its link. . Do not do it! If you find yourself dealing with this situation, you can go to Settings> Safari> Clear History and Website Data on your iPhone, and after confirming your choice, these types of pop-up messages should no longer appear.
How do you know if your iPhone has a virus?
You won’t like the answer: you probably have no idea if there is malware installed on your device. False alarms are much more common than real problems, as some people will interpret a badly coded application, a configuration that is not working as it should, or an obsolete battery as malware signals.
If you notice that your iPhone is behaving in a strange or suspicious way, you will surely want to investigate the reason. But unless you have unlocked your device making it a jailbreak and made vulnerable, it is not likely that is caused by a virus or malware. Try backing up your iPhone and performing a factory reset (here’s how to do it) to see if the issues have been resolved. If the odd performance persists, then consider visiting an Apple Store.
How to decrease the risk?
There are some good iPhone security apps, but they are really focused on your privacy more than anything else. For the most part, you don’t have to worry about a virus or malware on your iPhone if you stick to Apple’s App Store options.
“Unless a person unlocks their device, they will not be able to install third-party applications that have not been verified by Apple,” said Morgenstern. So if you’re worried about staying safe, the answer is simple: “Don’t jailbreak your device and always install updates as soon as they are available to fix security vulnerabilities.”