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Why aren’t there virus scanners for iPhones?

It seems that not a day goes by without seeing a warning about security flaws, malware, Trojans, ransomware, phishing attacks, viruses, or some other digital threat. And seemingly, it’s only Windows or Android users who are affected — users of Apple products, such as Mac, iPad, or iPhone, rarely get affected if at all.

Could it be because the other operating systems are more widespread or perhaps that cybercriminals think it’s not worth attacking iPhones? After all, a study published by Statista in February 2022 reported that 69.74% of people worldwide use an Android smartphone, whereas only 29.49% use an iPhone.

What’s interesting is that there are no virus scanners for iPhones. But why is that and why is there no antivirus software for iOS? We’ve looked into this and will explain why in this post — and why Apple doesn’t even allow antivirus apps for iOS. That said, there are still good reasons and appropriate ways to protect your iPhone.

Virus scanners for iPhones: Useful or not?

In 2015 Apple banned all antivirus solutions from the App Store, with the company continuing to clamp down on virus scanners in the store. You’ll always find products popping up there — even well-known ones — which in most cases range from barely useful to totally useless.

Apple simply says that you don’t need a virus scanner for your iPhone, which may sound arrogant at first.

The iOS operating system is designed in such a way that does away with the need for virus scanners for iPhone

If you look at the architecture of the iOS operating system, it quickly becomes clear that comprehensive antivirus protection for iPhones is actually useless and unnecessary.

That’s because every app in iOS is sandboxed, meaning they each run in a self-contained, protected environment that ensures each app can’t access files stored by other apps or make changes to your device. If an app is infected with a virus, this virus cannot leave the app and infect other apps or even your iPhone’s iOS operating system.

If you were to install a virus scanner app on your iPhone, it would also run in a self-contained sandbox — without any access to other apps and the operating system, which of course needs to be shielded. As such, we can agree with Apple on this point: You don’t need a virus scanner.

Apple uses sophisticated security mechanisms for your iPhone

As an iPhone user, you know that you can only download new apps for your iPhone from the App Store. And as far as this store is concerned, Apple has some pretty restrictive practices as only apps that Apple has checked itself make it in and can be downloaded by us.

And that’s not all — Apple has introduced additional security routines: App developers need to ask the company for permission if their app needs access to features and information within the operating system, which is often the case. That’s because there have been instances where developers have tried to inject malware via their apps — such as apps that copied iPhone users’ address data or accessed the camera without permission.

By contrast, you can use your Android device to access various app stores that have been checked far less well, putting the threat situation in an entirely different league when it comes to downloading apps — and making the use of a good virus scanner for your Android smartphone indispensable.

It’s a good idea to strengthen your iPhone’s defenses

You probably get that warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that your iPhone is well protected thanks to the extensive security mechanisms that Apple has put in place. But did you know that your Apple devices are still vulnerable to things like phishing, spyware, and other web-based threats?

A premium protection app for your iPhone will help safeguard you from malicious websites and when using your iPhone on unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots — helping prevent these cyberthreats from infecting your device.

Avira Mobile Security for iOS  does precisely this, protecting you when using your iPhone on public hotspots. This app also features Avira Phantom VPN to further strengthen your protection thanks to end-to-end encryption of everything you get up to online on your iPhone.

You can only download Avira Mobile Security for iOS from the App Store — a definite sign of approval given Apple’s very restrictive corporate policies.

Avira Mobile Security for iOS
Protect your iPhone when surfing on public hotspots with Mobile Security for iOS.

iPhone viruses: Are there such things?

It’s far more cost-effective and easier for cybercriminals to gain access to your data via websites or phishing attempts than to develop an app for iOS — especially since an app would need to go through Apple’s comprehensive security check in the first place.

Viruses that, despite everything, still manage to get onto your iPhone via a security flaw in the Safari browser or an app downloaded from the Apple Store — and even bypass the sandbox structure in the process — are likely to quickly attract the attention of established security routines, and not just because your system has slowed to a crawl and battery consumption has shot through the roof.

Apple itself is good at issuing rapid updates to fix security holes thanks to the Apple community’s eagerness to share information on numerous blogs and news sites.

Jailbreaking weakens your iPhone’s defenses

Wikipedia describes iOS jailbreaking as a “privilege escalation exploit executed to remove software restrictions imposed by the manufacturer” on Apple devices running iOS and iOS-based operating systems. By performing such a jailbreak, users aim to circumvent the restrictive security measures and make changes within the operating system.

As you already know, the architecture of the iOS operating system is structured in sandboxes, where each app on your iPhone runs in its own, self-contained environment.

Jailbreaking gives you access to your iPhone’s file system, providing you with additional permissions — also known as root privileges. You can then use these privileges to do all manner of things, including install apps and extensions not authorized by Apple or remove apps that Apple has preinstalled.

That might sound interesting, but by jailbreaking your device you’re breaking the security measures that Apple has put in place — and cybercriminals can hack your iPhone more easily.

In this regard, it’s worth noting that in the rare cases where iPhones are hit by hacker attacks, in the vast majority of them these devices have been jailbroken. Apple itself warns against jailbreaking the iPhone and other iOS devices — and of course any warranty claims for possible consequential damage are rendered void.

Protect your iPhone from: Phishing attacks

Viruses that attack the iOS operating system or individual apps on your iPhone don’t really pose a great threat thanks to iOS’s sophisticated security mechanisms. However, cybercriminals can certainly hack your iPhone using other methods to get at your data or whatever it is they want. Phishing attacks, scareware ads, bogus sweepstakes, and recall rip-offs: Hackers’ creativity knows no bounds.

In the case of phishing attempts, hackers send masses of bogus emails to obtain protected, sensitive information such as PINs, log in credentials, and bank details. Even iOS’s sophisticated security on your iPhone can’t protect you from these attempts.

So, be very cautious if you receive emails from banks, insurance firms, or authorities asking you to update your password, for example. A sure-fire sign of a potential hacker attack is to check the sender address for signs of spoofing — that way you can protect yourself and your iPhone from the threats posed by phishing emails.

Protect your iPhone from: Tracking — and Apple

Website operators, search engines, internet service providers: All of these companies collect data, tracking users’ activities to do so. Since our devices, including our iPhones, have an IP address, what we do online can be tracked and tied to us quite transparently.

In the spring of 2021 Apple created quite a stir with the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) initiative, causing countless companies in the ad industry such as Facebook and Google to protest loudly. With this initiative, Apple is actively speaking out against tracking by companies. In doing so, Apple is advocating that privacy is your right and that you can protect your iPhone from such unwanted or personalized ads — which of course can only be created by analyzing tracking data.

It’s understandable that the ad industry feared that it could mark the downfall of digital advertising.

But although Apple is actively opposed to tracking, the company itself collects usage data to serve us with personalized ads such as in the App Store. Although Apple says it doesn’t link the data with your Apple ID or share it with ad partners, it does create a profile that tracks your activity, such as ad clicks or app downloads. In addition, Apple creates user groups with similar interests from individual Apple ID data such as a user’s date of birth, gender, or place of residence.

Strengthen your iOS device’s defenses with a VPN

A VPN, i.e. a virtual, private network, is also interesting for iPhone users for various reasons.

If you want to strengthen your iOS device’s defenses, using a VPN is a good option. It provides end-to-end encryption of all traffic, and virtually obscures your IP address so that neither website operators, search engines, authorities, nor the internet service provider can track what you do online.

If you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot with your iPhone, you should always turn on your VPN to make your iOS device more secure. In addition, using a VPN is ideal if you want to enjoy unrestricted access to stream movies on the go or at home.

With Avira Phantom VPN you can make your iOS device more secure thanks to end-to-end encryption.

Avira Phantom VPN
Protect everything you send and receive using your iOS device with Avira Phantom VPN.

However, if you want a little more comprehensive protection for your iOS devices, other solutions are better suited. Avira Mobile Security for iOS includes a VPN and web protection to block phishing websites.

It also comes with a privacy manager feature to prevent your Siri chats from being recorded, giving you greater control over how your data is used. The other features of this security suite for your iPhone are also really handy. These include a password manager, an anti-theft tool, and a call blocker.

Naturally, you can find Avira Mobile Security for iOS on the Apple App Store.

Avira Mobile Security for iOS
Protect your iPhone from a range of threats with Avira Mobile Security for iOS.

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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.