Do you need an anti-virus app on your iPhone? The short answer is no, there is very little risk that your iPhone could get infected with malicious software, like a virus. However, one should continue to be vigilant and concerned about the security of one’s phone and the personal data on it. There are a few things you should do to keep your data and your phone as secure as possible.
Let’s briefly look at the risk of viruses or other malicious software on the iOS platform, which includes iPhones, iPad and iPod Touches.
Apple indicates that it designed the iOS platform with security at its core. This is true. Apple built in a number of checks and balances and security features which greatly reduce the risks, but there is never zero risk. Security researchers have found vulnerabilities over the years. A few security breaches have been found and exploited by so-called bad guys. Most of the exploits only affect iPhones that have been jailbroken. Briefly, jailbreaking a phone is a procedure done intentionally by some iPhone owners which removes some of the restrictions and security measures that Apple put in place. I should mention that jailbreaking one’s iPhone invalidates its warranty. This 2015 article from MacWorld discusses many of the malicious software attacks that have existed for the iOS platform.
Even though the risk of malicious software is minimal on iPhones you should still be vigilant for tricks. For example, while using Safari it’s possible that a web page could pop-up and display a bogus warning about your phone being compromised. Or, you could read an email which contains a link to a web page that is part of a phishing attack trying to trick you into divulging your personal information.
To ensure your iPhone’s security, I recommend that all iPhone owners do the following:
- Secure your phone by setting a passcode. Tap on Settings, scroll to and tap on Touch ID and Settings, then tap on Turn Passcode On and follow the prompts to set it up.
- Backup your iPhone to your Mac or to iCloud, or both
- Enable the Find My Phone feature
- Make sure Safari’s Fraudulent Website Warning feature is enabled. It’s on by default. You can double check by tapping on Settings, scrolling down to and tapping on Safari. Then make sure that Fraudulent Website Warning is on.
- Regularly install iOS updates. If Apple learns about or finds a security flaw they’ll patch it as soon as they can. If you want to learn about what fixes are included in a specific iOS update, you can check out Apple’s web site, such as this page which covers iOS 11 updates.
Despite the overall low risk of security issues on iOS devices, companies that make security software sell a few security-related apps in the iOS App Store, including a few products that have the word anti-virus in their name. I know this makes things very confusing! At this time, I don’t recommend using any of these security apps since they mostly replicate features that are already built-in to iOS and Safari. If you’d like to read more, this December 2017 article from Tom’s Guide talks about iPhone security and what these security apps do and don’t do.