Can You Scan Your iPhone for Viruses?
While only 4% of all malware targets are iOS devices, [*] hackers are increasingly infecting iOS devices with spyware, ransomware, adware, and even more dangerous cyber threats.
In September 2023, researchers discovered a vulnerability that allowed hackers to install spyware on iPhones — without users even clicking on anything [*].
Apple was quick to release a patch that nullified the threat — however, the truth remains that iPhone’s aren’t invulnerable to viruses and malware.
If your iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device is acting strangely, it could be due to a malware infection. But with no official antivirus software available for iPhones, most people don’t know how to check for viruses — or what to do next in order to stay safe.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to tell if your iPhone has been infected, how to remove iPhone viruses, and what you can do to secure your device from hackers and scammers.
Can iPhones Get Viruses? How To Tell If Your Phone Is Infected
Yes, iPhones can get viruses — but not in the same way as other devices.
Unlike the Android smartphone operating system, Apple uses a closed app ecosystem. This means that if you accidentally download a malicious app, hackers won’t be able to gain access to all of your device’s data or functionality.
For this reason, iPhones, iPads, and Macs are relatively safe from traditional viruses — but they are not invulnerable to all online threats and risks.
For example, if you jailbreak your phone, click on a phishing link, give too many permissions to a sketchy app, or accidentally give hackers access to your iCloud account, your iPhone could fall prey to a malware infection. Or worse, you could become the victim of extortion, identity theft, or fraud.
Here are some of the warning signs that your iPhone has been compromised.
- Your battery loses its charge faster than usual. Viruses run in the background and consume processing power, which can reduce your phone's battery life more quickly than normal.
- Higher-than-expected data usage. Behind the scenes, viruses may be using up data by sending messages, running programs, downloading payloads, transferring information, and displaying ads.
- Your phone is hot or making strange sounds. Malicious software can lead to overheating through extensive and inefficient resource usage, often involving the central processing unit (CPU) or graphics processing unit (GPU).
- Strange behavior or poor performance. Infected iPhones may experience unusually slow activity, app crashing, and pop-ups — even with a closed browser.
- New or unexpected apps on your homescreen. New apps can pop up in various ways. For example, you may have been tricked into downloading one, a browser exploit may have allowed an unauthorized download, or a virus might have installed a malicious app on its own.
- You’re locked out of your iCloud account. Your Apple account may be locked because of suspicious activity or because someone else has taken it over.
- Unfamiliar online account activity. Compromised iPhones may give up access to various online accounts. Noticing strange activity in your finances or accounts can tip you off.
- Decreased storage space. Viruses can take up space on your device by installing additional and duplicate files, filling up unseen folders, and gradually expanding in size.
The above signs may indicate your iPhone has a virus, but they can also signal an iPhone hack.
Since the majority of hacks come from data breaches, phishing scams, and human error, mobile security can only protect you so much. An all-in-one digital security and theft protection solution like Aura protects your devices — and monitors your accounts and information to alert you if any suspicious activity is detected. Learn more about how Aura keeps you safe online →
How To Check iPhones for Viruses and Malware
If you notice one of the red flags above, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your iPhone has been infected with a virus. Problems could be caused by faulty apps, outdated software, hacking, or even human error.
To be sure, follow these steps to locate viruses and malware on iPhones:
Check your homescreen for unfamiliar apps
Malware and viruses often hide in plain sight as legitimate-looking apps. If you see any apps you don’t remember downloading — especially “clean up” or “speed booster” apps — these could be viruses in disguise.
Dig into your mobile data usage
You can see where all of your data has gone by checking your Mobile Data in the Mobile Network section of your Settings [*]. You might also check with your mobile network provider to see if it tracks this information.
Make sure your phone isn’t jailbroken
While not a problem for new iPhone users, a jailbroken reused iPhone can be identified by the presence of the third-party app store "Cydia." You can also browse for unfamiliar apps (or apps unavailable in the App Store) or run a jailbreak detection scanner.
Review your battery settings for apps running in the background
In the Battery section of your iPhone Settings, you can see which apps are causing your battery drain [*]. Check the Battery Usage by App and Activity by App sections to learn more.
Don’t ignore pop-up ads (especially in your mobile browser)
If you notice pop-ups, make sure your ad-blocker is turned on in your Safari Settings [*]. An unusual amount of pop-ups might also indicate that your device has been compromised.
Scan your device for viruses
While there are no antivirus apps for your iPhone, you can still run them on your computer, which may be contributing to your iPhone problems. Antivirus programs will identify, quarantine, and remove malware from your computer, which can indirectly protect your iPhone from the spread.
Investigate your storage
You can find out if malicious programs have filled your storage by checking the Storage in the General section of your device Settings [*]. You can find out which apps and processes are using up your storage space.
Make sure you can log in to all of your accounts
If you can't log in to your online accounts, it's likely you’ve been hacked, and a cybercriminal has taken over your accounts and locked you out.
How To Remove Viruses From an iPhone
- Make sure you’re using the latest version of iOS
- Clear your browsing history, cache, and cookies
- Remove any suspicious apps
- Restart your phone
- Restore your phone to a previous (safe) backup
- Factory reset your iPhone
- Recover your Apple ID
While iPhones shelter users from most viruses, they can still get infected. If you fall victim to a virus, follow the steps below to help protect and clean up your iPhone.
1. Make sure you’re using the latest version of iOS
Apple is constantly battling hackers who are trying to find and exploit iOS system vulnerabilities. When Apple identifies potential issues or hackers make breakthroughs, the company releases patches as quickly as possible in the form of operating system updates.
Ensuring that you’re using the latest version of iOS is one of the best ways to remove vulnerabilities and protect your phone from hackers.
How to update iOS version [*]:
- Turn on automatic updates. In the General page of your iPhone Settings, click on Software Update and turn on Automatic Updates. Your device will now initiate new updates overnight when charging.
- Update manually. In the Software Update section of the General Settings, you will see a new iOS version populate if one is available. Click on Download and Install to update your system.
💡 Related: How To Get Rid of Viruses on iPhones and iPads →
2. Clear your browsing history, cache, and cookies
Certain types of malware can infect and exploit your history, cache, and cookies to cause harm to you or your device. Clearing these can eliminate threats and remove future risks, such as dangerous pop-ups, browser redirects, and hidden scripts [*].
How to clear your browsing history, cache, and cookies:
- Delete history, cache, and cookies. Go into the Safari page of your iPhone Settings and click on Clear History and Website Data.
- Block Cookies. Click on Advanced in the Safari Settings menu, and turn on Block All Cookies.
- Turn on a Content Blocker. If you download an ad or pop-up blocker, you can add it in the Safari page of your Settings. Click on Extensions and select your downloaded content blocker.
3. Remove any suspicious apps
Apple keeps tight control over what apps you can install on your device by forcing developers and users to only use its official App Store. This makes iPhones much more secure than Android devices — but sometimes malicious apps slip through. If you install a suspicious app, it may contain spyware, distribute malware to your device, or give hackers access to your data.
How to remove suspicious apps from iPhone:
- Delete an app from your home screen. Tap and hold the app you wish to delete. Then click on Delete App to remove it completely [*].
- Delete a hidden app from your library [*]. Swipe left on your iPhone to reach your app library. Search or browse for the app in question; then tap on and hold it. Click on Delete App to remove it.
💡 Related: Can Someone Hack My iPhone? How To Tell & What To Do →
4. Restart your phone
Restarting your iPhone frees up your phone's resources and shuts down any and all processes and activities. If anything malicious was running in the background, a restart will close it down — if only temporarily — and refresh your system.
How to restart your phone [*]:
- Restart iPhone X and later. Hold down one of the volume buttons and the side power button together. Slide the restart phone slider that appears.
- Restart earlier iPhones. Hold down the side power button. Slide the restart phone slider that appears.
- Force restart your iPhone (iOS 16 and later). Click on the volume up button, then click on the volume down button, and then press and hold the side power button. Only release the side button once the Apple logo appears.
5. Restore your phone to a previous (safe) backup
If your iPhone recently picked up a virus, it's possible that an earlier backup of yours is safe and virus-free. This may allow you to reset your phone's system without losing all of your apps and settings.
To reset your iPhone, click on Settings, then General, and then Reset. Then click on Erase All Content and Settings, which will require your Apple ID password [*]. Note: make sure you have a backup, as this process will delete all of your iPhone’s apps, settings, and data.
How to restore your phone to a previous backup [*]:
- Restore from an iCloud backup. When your device boots back up, click on Set Up Manually and follow the steps. At the end, click on Restore from iCloud Backup and enter your Apple ID.
- Restore from a Mac (MacOS 10.15 or later). Click on Set Up Manually and follow the steps. At the end, click on Restore from Mac or PC. Connect your iPhone to the Mac and open the Finder sidebar. Choose your iPhone and click on Trust. Then click on Restore from this backup.
- Restore using iTunes (MacOS 10.14 or earlier and PCs). Click on Set Up Manually and follow the steps. At the end, click on Restore from Mac or PC. Connect your iPhone to the Mac or Windows PC, and launch iTunes. Either click on the iPhone icon or allow the restoration screen to pop up. Now click on the backup you wish to restore.
6. Factory reset your iPhone
If you encounter a stubborn virus that has attached itself to your backups, restoring a previous version may not work. If you've tried the other options described above without success, there's a good possibility that restoring the phone to its factory settings will do the trick [*].
How to factory reset your iPhone:
- Reset iPhone via settings. On your iPhone, click on Settings, then General, and then Reset. This time, instead of restoring the device, click on Don't Transfer Apps & Data.
- Reset iPhone via MacOS 10.15 (or later). Connect your phone to the Mac and open the Finder. Then click on Restore iPhone.
- Reset iPhone via iTunes. Connect your iPhone to the device, and launch iTunes. Click on the iPhone icon, then click on Summary, and then click on Restore iPhone.
7. Recover your Apple ID
If your problem results from a hacked Apple ID, you could very well be locked out. In that case, you'll likely need to use a borrowed device to recover your account.
How to recover your Apple ID:
- Reset your password. Open the Apple Support app and click on Reset Password. From there, select A different Apple ID and Continue. You can then follow the steps to reset the account.
- Remove unrecognized devices. Using either the Settings on your iPhone or visiting appleid.apple.com, look at the Devices using your Apple ID. For any device you don't recognize, click on Remove from Account.
- Recover your account [*]. As a last resort, visit iforgot.apple.com and start the recovery process. Within 72 hours, you'll receive an email with information about your request.
How To Protect Your iPhone From Viruses, Hackers, and Malware
While the threat of viruses on iPhones is smaller than it is for Android users, you can still just as easily get scammed, have your accounts hacked, or even get tricked into clicking on phishing links.
Along with practicing good cyber hygiene at all times to protect your devices, follow these tips to keep your iPhone and online accounts secure:
- Don’t jailbreak your phone. While jailbreaks offer more customization options for your iPhone, it makes your phone a much easier target for viruses and hacking. Be sure that you know the tradeoffs before doing anything that will impact your iPhone’s built-in security.
- Only download apps from the official Apple App Store. All apps submitted to the App Store undergo a thorough review, testing, and evaluation process before going public [*]. iPhone users can add apps through sideloading, jailbreaking, and enterprise or developer mode, but they all come with risks.
- Make sure you enable security settings in Safari. Manage your security [*] and privacy settings [*] to identify unsafe websites and limit the threats that you encounter on Safari. Go to Settings or Preferences to enable Fraudulent Website Warnings and Block Pop-Ups in the Safari menu. Aura also includes Safe Browsing tools that can warn you of fake and malicious websites.
- Keep regular backups of your phone and other devices. Backups provide you with a safe and restorable version of your data and system. Should your iPhone become compromised, you can back up your mobile devices in the iCloud menu in Settings [*].
- Learn to spot the warning signs of a phishing scam. Scammers use fake websites, emails, calls, and text messages to trick unsuspecting victims into giving up personal information or making mistakes online. To avoid these traps, familiarize yourself with social engineering scams and their tactics — such as urgency in tone and language, threats, and requests for private information.
- Enable auto-updates on your phone. Apple sends regular software updates to iPhones in order to patch vulnerabilities and strengthen device security. While you can manually update your iPhone from the App Store, you can set up auto-updates by enabling App Updates under App Store in your device Settings [*].
- Use unique and secure passwords for each account. Strong passwords make a huge difference in protecting your Apple ID (iTunes and iCloud) and other online accounts. A secure password manager can help you store and protect all of your credentials in one place without having to worry about remembering each one.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. Setting up 2FA adds a security step to the login process, such as verification through a specific device or email account. Hackers would then need your physical device or individual access to multiple accounts in order to break in.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi (especially to log in to accounts). Public Wi-Fi networks can be susceptible to hackers. They can also be cloned to trick users into logging in to the wrong network. If you're being watched, you could reveal your private login and account details.
- Limit how much personal data you make available. Hackers can use your phone number and other widely accessible information to create serious problems for you. Decrease your risk by reducing how much you share on social media, removing your information from data brokers, and closing down unused online accounts.
- Protect yourself from spam calls and texts with an artificial intelligence (AI) Call Assistant. We're all susceptible to human error, but the risks have never been higher with the increasing sophistication of spam calls and texts. Spam call protection screens your calls and filters your texts to block spam and minimize your risk.
- Monitor your identity and finances with an identity theft protection provider. Aura’s robust identity theft protection solution keeps tabs on your accounts, finances, and information to ensure that nothing suspicious happens. You'll receive near-instant alerts and 24/7 U.S.-based customer support if your data is compromised or leaked.
The Bottom Line: iPhones Aren’t Invincible — Aura Can Help
Viruses may not be a major threat for iPhone users, but they can't be completely ignored either.
Pay attention to what your iPhone is telling you. If it starts behaving strangely or if you notice something seems off with the battery, apps, storage, or data, follow the steps above and clean up your device and accounts.
For more comprehensive protection against hacking, identity theft, and fraud, sign up for Aura’s all-in-one solution.
With Aura, you get award-winning identity theft protection, three-bureau credit monitoring, round-the-clock support, and cutting edge digital security tools for all of your devices — including antivirus software, a virtual private network (VPN), password manager, AI-powered spam detection, and more.
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