Yes, you read the title correctly. This is a post about the best antivirus for iOS. If you’re a long-time iOS user, you’re probably already scrolling to the end of this post to leave a comment. If you’re a long-time Android user, you’re probably just reading this out of curiosity. Maybe you’re looking forward to what the comments section will say. If you’ve just gotten an iOS device and don’t know too much about it, this might be a real question in your head that you’re too scared to ask because people will laugh at you. Let’s get the main thing out of the way; you don’t need an antivirus on iOS. It’s simply not needed and we’re going to explain why.
iOS sandboxes appss. Sandboxing is a way to keep apps in isolation. An app asks for explicit permission to access information stored in other apps. For example, an app like Whatsapp can’t just access your contacts if it wants you. You have to give it permission, and you can revoke it anytime you want.
Outside these explicit permissions that an app asks for, it simply isn’t possible for an app to access information stored in other apps. Every single app on your iPhone or iPad runs in its own isolated environment. It isn’t possible for it to break out of this environment and interfere with or access information stored in other apps.
Malicious Apps vs Viruses
With a mobile platform, it’s important to understand what a virus is and what a malicious app is. Most of us use desktops where an antivirus is an absolute necessity. A desktop is infected when you run an app that in turn modifies your system or hijacks other apps. A common example is of those EXEs that duplicate themselves and live in your temporary files folder, or apps that hijack your browser, or modify the registry. None of this is possible on iOS because of sandboxing.
That said, there are still malicious apps. A malicious app works like an ordinary app. It stays in its little sandbox and wreaks havoc there. For example, if you were to install an app to manage your credit cards, the app would only ask you to enter your credit card information. You would do so. If the app then uploads this information to a server where it is used to skim money from your cards, you have a malicious app on your hands.
A malicious app will not access information stored in other apps. Instead, it will misuse the information you give it. What an app can’t do is hijack your browser or insert ads on top of iOS.
There Are Exceptions
A few years ago, it was discovered that perfectly good, trustworthy apps in the App Store were ‘infected’. For a while, it was a mystery as to how that even happened. It turns out, it was Xcode that was responsible.
Xcode is an essential app that all iOS developers need to make and compile apps. This is a free app that you can download from the App Store. Unfortunately, Apple’s servers aren’t the greatest. They’re rather slow so what developers will do sometimes is download Xcode from a repository or via a torrent. What developers sometimes ended up downloading was Xcode that had been bundled with malicious scripts. When they used Xcode, it infected the apps. This was a massive problem but again, it didn’t effect an entire device. It did give these apps access to clipboard content which is potentially dangerous.
The thing is, an antivirus app couldn’t have done anything about this. This was of course a one-time thing and developers are more cautious now.
When you jailbreak an iOS device, you break some of the limitations in iOS. In return, you can make changes to files that are otherwise locked and cannot be modified by other apps or by a user. These changes can be made via a desktop app, or through a jailbreak tweak.
The question is, after you’ve by-passed a few checks and broken a few system-wide limitations, is your device at risk? The short answer is, Yes. If you install tweaks from unreliable repos, or you pirate apps your device can get infected. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything an anti-virus can do here.
When you install a tweak, you allow it to run on your device. If it later turns out to be malicious, there’s nothing you can do about it. It can communicate with other apps and steal information. The only way to fix an infected Jailbroken iPhone is to reset it.
This shouldn’t scare you off jailbreaking. Just remember to install tweaks from trustworthy repositories and don’t pirate apps.