In today’s world where so much private information is kept on our phones, they are increasingly becoming more valuable targets for hackers. iPhone users often believe that Apple devices are “unhackable”, but is this actually true?
Apple, of course, are keen to maintain this image and the company regularly talks about how secure its devices are. But while it’s true that iPhones are one of the more secure phones on the market, are they actually immune to hacking and viruses? In this article, we examine the facts.
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Can my iPhone get a virus?
We all have that idea in our mind of what a so-called ‘computer-virus’ is. This term mostly comes from the earlier days of computing when computers could easily become infected with a ‘virus’ that would run rampant in the system. They would take control of your computer and generally cause havoc. These were often costly to rectify and could mean you lost important data – unless you backed up to your bank of 3.5inch floppy disks. Not to mention the risk of passing the virus onto another person’s computer if you weren’t careful.
So if this is the type of ‘virus’ you are thinking about when you ask a question like this, then the simple answer is no. Your iPhone cannot be infected in that same way, this is mainly limited to PCs.
However. That does not mean that your phone is automatically protected against other forms of hacks and attacks. We’re going to explore the most common threat for iPhones and teach you how you can stay protected. This threat is known as spyware.
What is spyware?
As it’s name would suggest, spyware is usually created with the purpose of spying on a user, collecting passwords, account usernames and a whole host of other sensitive data that should remain private.
This can be installed in a number of ways but the most common involves a third-party getting physical access to your device and installing software that allows them to monitor and collect the information passing to your phone from the internet.
This installation process can be done in mere minutes and can remain completely undetected to the user – who might never realize that they’ve been hacked and could go on for years with the hack in place. This is especially true for users who are less tech-savvy and less likely to keep their phone up to date with the latest firmware.
In some cases, more advanced spyware can even be installed without having physical access to the device. From simply clicking on a malicious link or email attachment, or by unwittingly downloading a rogue app.
How common is spyware on iPhones?
Compared to Android, which is much more susceptible to being hacked with spyware, iOS (the operating system used for iPads and iPhones) sees much less hacking. However this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen and certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible that it will happen to you.
This is especially true when you consider the fact that some spyware is extremely cheap to purchase. Commercially available spyware can be found for as little as $30 and does not require a person to be a computer-genius in order to be installed.
Here at Certo Software, we have seen a significant increase in iOS spyware detections in the last 2 years.
How can iPhone users protect their device from spyware?
This can be more difficult on iPhones than with other manufacturers. This is because Apple impose restrictions on what apps are allowed to do on its devices. One of these restrictions is that security apps cannot access areas of the filesystem where spyware usually hides. This means that antivirus apps do not exist for iPhones.
However, there are still several ways iPhone users can protect themselves against spyware:
- Ensure your device’s OS is kept up to date. As mentioned above, it’s important to update your phone as regularly as possible. Apple is constantly working on bug fixes and ironing out weaknesses in their system that allow hackers to gain access. Every new update keeps your phone better protected.
- Never jailbreak your device. It may be tempting to jailbreak your phone in order to bypass some of Apple’s software restrictions. However, doing so will open you up to a huge potential risk of spyware on your device.
- Never download apps from outside the official App Store. Again, this might be tempting but doing so only puts your device’s security at unnecessary risk.
- Use a strong passcode to unlock your device. Use at least 6 characters as well as biometrics such as fingerprint or face unlock.
- Keep your apps updated. Just like Apple, app developers are constantly improving the security of their apps to ensure that they minimize the risk of creating a security weakness.
- Be careful about websites you choose to visit and links that you open from emails, etc. Fake emails and buttons on websites can lead you to inputting personal information into what is essentially a hackers database. Be vigilant and only trust websites you know are reputable.
- Regularly scan your iPhone for security threats. Although Apple doesn’t allow antivirus apps onto their App Store, you can use software such as Certo AntiSpy to scan your device using a computer via a USB connection.
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Are there other threats iPhone users should know about?
Another common method of hacking iPhones is by gaining access to a user’s iCloud backups. Certain tools allow a hacker to regularly and automatically pull data from online backups that would give them access to your messages, photos, private notes and GPS location history.
The solution. Just activate two-factor authentication on your device as this will add an extra layer of security to your iCloud account and will prevent most cases of this type of hack, even if the attacker knows your password. Click here to read more about iCloud hacking as well as how to protect your device from this type of hack.