Antivirus for iPhone – The definitive guide

Catherine Harris

By Catherine Harris


With our phones now such an integral part of our daily lives, we’re often asked if antivirus apps are needed to protect them. After all, most of us have used antivirus software to protect our computers for years, so why not phones too? This guide focuses on virus protection for iPhones and asks is it needed and what options are available to consumers.

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Do you need antivirus for iPhone?

The answer to this question seems to divide opinion. Many swear by the long-held belief that Apple devices cannot get viruses, while others insist that in today’s connected world no device is safe and should be protected.

The truth is, although they are rare when compared to traditional computer viruses, iPhone viruses do exist, and there have been plenty of examples where people have fallen victim to them. With so much personal data now kept on our iPhones, even though hackers have a harder time accessing it compared with some other devices, the gain is arguably far greater.

iPhone viruses

The most common iPhone viruses take the form of spyware. These are malicious applications designed to snoop on the victim’s device and steal personal data. Many examples of iPhone spyware exist today (such as mSpy, Flexispy and Ownspy) and these can be purchased online for as little as $50. Installation can take just a few minutes if the phone is not securely configured, so if your device is left unattended even for a short while, it could be at risk. Once installed, calls, messages, emails, photos, browsing history and GPS location can all be monitored remotely by the hacker.

Why is there no antivirus app for iPhone?

If you’ve ever searched “antivirus app” or similar in the App Store you’ve probably noticed that there are numerous security-themed apps available, but nothing that offers virus scanning capabilities. Given the popularity of iPhones, this may seem strange, but the reason actually lies with Apple themselves.

Apple imposes several restrictions on what apps are allowed to do on its devices. The most significant being that apps cannot access any files outside of their own container. This means that virus scanners are not possible on iOS devices. Furthermore, there have even been examples where Apple has forcibly removed security apps from its App Store, stating that they breach their (rather ambiguous) developer guidelines.

What security apps are available on the App Store?

Despite Apple’s apparent animosity towards them, many security apps do exist on the App Store, including some from big names in computer antivirus, such as McAfee, Norton and Avast. Features often include re-branded versions of tools already offered by Apple, such as secure online backup or a lost device locator. But some also offer a VPN for secure web browsing or Wi-Fi protection to warn if a wireless network is unsecure.

While these apps do contain features that can help secure the device, they cannot actually scan the iPhone for viruses. Which, ironically, is what many users concerned about the safety of their personal data want.

Certo breaks the mold

Mindful of the restrictions imposed by Apple, when developing our iOS app, Certo took a different approach. Instead of offering the same features tirelessly reproduced by other apps, we listened to customer concerns and set out to address the issue of protecting the device against spyware and other advanced security threats.

Our app, Certo Mobile Security, is a security review tool that helps users protect their devices by looking at its configuration and providing them with guidance on how to setup the device for a more secure experience. This includes guarding against unauthorized access, protecting data stored online, checking app permissions and maximising privacy.

So how can I scan my iPhone for viruses?

If the answer cannot be found on the App Store then what should you do if you’re concerned that your device may already be compromised and want to scan it?

We recommend checking out Certo AntiSpy. Our unique solution works via a Windows or Mac computer meaning it can scan iOS devices for viruses, spyware and other security vulnerabilities.

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