HomeTechnologyNewsWhat is the best antivirus for iPhone? It is not!

What is the best antivirus for iPhone? It is not!

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Hannah Stryker / Instructional Geek

You don’t need an antivirus for your iPhone or iPad. In fact, any “antivirus” app you see advertised for iPhones isn’t even antivirus software. They are just “security” programs that can’t really protect you against malware.

There are no real antivirus apps for iPhone

A traditional antivirus app for Windows or macOS has full access to your operating system and uses that access to scan your apps and files to make sure malware isn’t running.

Any app you install on your iPhone runs in a sandbox which limits what they can do. An app can only access data that you give it permission to access. In other words, no app on your iPhone can snoop on what you do in your online banking app. They could access your photos, for example, but only if you give them permission to access your photos.

In Apple’s iOS operating system, any “security” apps you install are forced to run in the same sandbox as all other apps. They can’t even see a list of the apps you’ve installed from the App Store, let alone scan anything on your device for malware. Even if you had an app called “Dangerous Virus” installed on your iPhone, these iPhone security apps would not be able to see it.

That’s why there’s not a single example we’ve seen of an iPhone security app blocking a piece of malware from infecting an iPhone. If it existed, we’re sure these iPhone security app makers would announce it, but they don’t, because they can’t.

Sure, iPhones sometimes have security flaws, like Spectre. But these issues can only be resolved through quick security updates, and having a security app installed will do nothing to protect you. Just keep your iPhone up to date with the latest versions of iOS.

How your iPhone already protects you

Find My iPhone options in iPhone Settings. Safari privacy settings on an iPhone.

Your iPhone already has a ton of built-in security features. You can only install apps from the Apple App Store, and Apple checks these apps for malware and other bad stuff before adding them to the store. If malware is found in an App Store app later, Apple can remove it from the store and have your iPhone immediately remove the app for your safety.

iPhones have a built-in “Find My iPhone” feature that works through iCloud, allowing you to remotely locate, lock, or wipe a lost or stolen iPhone. You don’t need a special security app with “anti-theft” features. To check if Find My iPhone is enabled, go to Settings, tap your name at the top of the screen, then tap iCloud > Find My iPhone.

The Safari browser on your iPhone has a “fraud website warning” feature, also known as a phishing filter. If you end up on a website designed to trick you into providing personal information, perhaps it’s a fake website posing as your bank’s online banking page, you’ll see a warning. To check if this feature is enabled, go to Settings > Safari and look for the “Rogue website warning” option under Privacy and security.

What do those mobile security apps do?

Avira app on an iPhone. McAfee Mobile Security running on an iPhone.

Considering that these apps cannot function as antivirus software, you may be wondering what exactly they do. Well, their names are a clue: These programs have names like “Avira Mobile Security”, “McAfee Mobile Security”, “Norton Mobile Security”, and “Lookout Mobile Security”. Apple clearly won’t allow these apps to use the word “antivirus” in their names.

iPhone security apps often include features that don’t help protect against malware, like anti-theft features that let you remotely locate your phone, just like iCloud. Some include “media vault” tools that can hide photos on your phone with a password. Others include password managers, call blockers, and VPNs, which you can get in other apps. Some apps may offer a “safe browser” with its own phishing filter, but it works similar to the one already built into Safari.

Some of these apps have identity theft warnings that connect to an online service that alerts you if your data has been leaked. But you can use a service like Have I Been Pwned? to receive leak notifications to your email address without these apps. Credit Karma also offers free default notifications in addition to free credit reporting information.

These apps perform some security-related functions, which is why Apple allows them on the App Store. But they are not “antivirus” or “antimalware” applications, and they are not necessary.

RELATED: How to check if your password has been stolen

Don’t jailbreak your iPhone

All of the tips above assume that you are not jailbreaking your iPhone. Jailbreaking allows apps on your iPhone to run outside of the normal security sandbox. It also allows you to install apps from outside the App Store, which means Apple doesn’t check those apps for malicious behavior.

Like Apple, we recommend against jailbreaking your iPhone. Apple also goes to great lengths to fight jailbreaking, and the company has made it harder and harder over time.

Assuming you were using a jailbroken iPhone, it might theoretically make sense to use some sort of antivirus program. With the normal sandbox broken, antivirus programs could theoretically scan for malware you may have installed after jailbreaking your phone. However, such anti-malware applications would require a bad application definition file to work.

We don’t know of any antivirus apps for jailbroken iPhones, although it would be possible to create them.

We’ll say it again: you don’t need antivirus software for your iPhone. In fact, there is no antivirus software for iPhones and iPads. It doesn’t even exist.


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