How to Get Rid of Viruses on Your iPhone or iPad
Wait, iPhones and iPads can get viruses?
Yes, you read that right.
Even if Apple are paranoid about securing their Mac products, you really can’t stop hackers from trying to get a taste of the forbidden fruit.
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In this post, we’ll discuss how iPhones and iPads can be targeted by cybercriminals, how to diagnose if your device is affected by malicious software or a data breach, and how to remove viruses from your Apple product.
Can I really get a virus on my iPhone?
According to an intelligence report by Nokia, the possibility is very low. In fact, the amount of iPhones exposed to malware or malicious software is just 1% compared to the 47.15% rate for Android devices. Despite this relatively low threat level, it still shouldn’t be ignored.
This is especially true for iPhone or iPad users who have had their device jailbroken. No, this isn’t a scenario from some sci-fi show where your devices have committed crimes and you had to break them out of prison. A “jailbreak” in the tech sense means a phone’s operating system (OS) has been modified so that it won’t be limited by restrictions imposed by the manufacturer or network provider.
People who jailbreak their iPhones and iPads usually do it so they can install apps unavailable in the official Apple Store. Second-hand devices are often jailbroken too.
So how do people manage to do this? Well, we’re not here to tell you that. But we are here to tell you that there are a lot of people doing it. In 2019, a hacker managed to release a working public jailbreak for the iOS 12.4 update.
If you’re one of these people, then you’ve just managed to make your iPhone more vulnerable to attacks. And when we say attacks, we don’t just mean viruses. There are also threats like spyware or ransomware, phishing and identity theft. These types of cybercrime are different but their common goal is to access your private information so they can steal your money.
So, what if you didn’t jailbreak your phone? Unfortunately, you can still be a target for viruses.
For example, in 2015, hackers found a way to create a fake version of Apple's software for building iOS apps. Those developers who were unknowingly fooled allowed the hackers to steal data from users who downloaded their app.
In 2019, Forbes reported that malicious apps capable of accessing users’ data had been published in the App Store. This came as a shock to many Apple fans, since the company has very strict rules about the apps it features in its official store.
If you’re feeling a bit rattled about all this, we’re here to remind you not to let fear stop you from living your best online life. The first move is to diagnose your device, then we’ll take you through step-by-step solutions on how to deal with viruses, should you find any.
How can I tell if I have a “virus” on my iPhone?
If your phone seems fine, that means all is well. Right?
Some viruses can be sneaky, working in the background, lulling you into a false sense of security until things start falling apart.
So how do you tell if you have a virus on your phone?
1. Your apps crash more often than usual. This can be a bad sign that a hacker has somehow found a way to get into an app. The crash happens when they exploit the app to access your data.
2. There’s some unknown app sitting on your home screen. Is there a strange-looking app on your phone you don’t remember installing? It can be a malicious app trying to gain access to your phone’s data or even recording how you use it!
To properly check if there’s an app you haven’t installed yourself, you can go to the App Store > Apps > Purchased. If the suspicious-looking app isn’t on the list, then it’s gotta go.
3. There are unexplained activities or charges on your phone. On checking your billing statement, is there a spike in data usage or are you suddenly sending messages to numbers you don’t know?
Viruses run in the background and can stealthily use your iPhone or iPad’s apps without you even noticing. Think of them as an uninvited guest living in your house, eating your food and going through your things. Annoying, right? The only way to catch them is to carefully observe if you’re losing more cereal or in this case, more data.
4. Your battery overheats and dies out quicker than usual. Viruses run discreetly but there are ways to tell if they’re there.
Aside from unexplained activities on your phone, you may notice your battery is draining a whole lot faster, even if you’re not using your phone as much.
Learn more: How to Check Your iPhone for Viruses or Malware
What’s the difference between a malfunctioning app and a virus?
Now how do you tell if an app is just being buggy or if there is a legit threat from a virus?
If an app keeps malfunctioning, don’t panic just yet. It is possible it could just be faulty. You can even go into the app’s store page or the developer’s social media accounts to check if they have an update on any issues.
One way to tell if an app is genuinely infected is if it’s doing things it isn’t intended to do. For example, every time you open the app, does it redirect you to the app store? Does it show you ads when you have a premium version that’s not supposed to show them?
Another way to tell if it’s infected? It’s using way more battery and data than it’s supposed to. You’ll easily spot this by going into Settings and into the app’s details to gauge how much battery and data it’s actually using.
What can hackers do to your iPhone or iPad?
Hackers can do major damage once they have infiltrated your device using malicious software. This includes:
- stealing your account login details
- stealing your personally identifiable information
- controlling your device from afar by recording conversations, accessing your gallery and opening your camera
- locking your device so you can’t open it. In this case, hackers could even hold it for ransom and ask you for money so you can access your phone again
How to clean a virus from your iPhone
Follow these steps if you feel confident enough to delete the virus on your iPhone:
1. After diagnosing your phone, uninstall suspicious apps.
2. Restart your iPhone and clear your history.
3. Restore your iPhone to the most recent backup. You can find this in Settings > iCloud > Backup.
4. If all else fails, visit an Apple Store or call Apple Customer Care. They can inspect your device more closely and reformat if needed.
How to clean a virus from your iPad
The easiest way to clear a virus from your iPad is to clear your history and restore your original settings. Just follow the steps indicated below:
1. Open Settings and go to Safari.
2. Clear website history and website data under Safari Settings.
3. Confirm this action, then clear history.
4. Restore iPhone to the most recent backup.
How to protect your iPhone or iPad from viruses in the future
Whether you’ve experienced an Apple hack or not, here are several reminders to help you secure your device.
1. Don’t jailbreak your device. Unless you really, really need to (say you’re a researcher or a coder trying to figure out how to improve an OS) resist the temptation to jailbreak your device. It can only do more harm than good for reasons we have stated above.
2. Keep your iOS updated. Do you always see that notification telling you to update your device? If you haven’t yet, then you should do it immediately. That’s because the makers of your OS are constantly trying to find faults or vulnerabilities in old versions and of course, fix them. These fixes are usually available in the newer version so it’s a handy layer of protection.
3. Be careful about what you download on your device. Before you download any new apps, it’s best if you read the reviews about them and make sure they’re legit.
4. Stay updated with industry news. In case Apple experiences a data breach or if there’s a cyber security threat to a new device, it’s best to stay in the loop so you know when to act. We’ve made it easier for you by compiling all the latest industry news into our newsletter. Sign up for regular updates now.
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