Think iPhones can’t get viruses? Our expert explains why it could happen

If you read the technology headlines every day, you will be forgiven for thinking that we are in the middle of a security crisis with software viruses and malicious software going on, and there is certainly some truth in that. These threats affect all of our Internet-connected devices, from smart speakers to laptops and phones.

While there is a strong perception that Android is insecure, you do not hear much about iOS. Many people believe that Apple iPhones are immune to viruses or malware, others are worried about the possibility, but what is the truth of the matter? Can iPhones get viruses?

“In theory, yes,” Maik Morgenstern, technology director of AV-Test, told Tendencias digital. “However, the practical obstacles are quite high and it is unlikely that a normal user will be affected. But there are vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the attackers. ”

People tend to use the word virus to describe all the unwanted and unwanted software, but technically the term refers to software that infects a host, inserts itself into an existing program and then propagates that infection through self-replication. Viruses are only a small percentage of malware (malicious software), the real term that catches everything, and are especially rare in smartphones. If you get a mysterious popup or an application records your data and sends it to a remote server, you can interpret it as a virus, although it is probably another type of malware. We go with that broader definition here.

How safe is iOS?

Apple has been criticized for its walled garden approach, because it does not allow for as much choice and customization as some of the alternatives, but there are some benefits of being more restrictive.

“Given that iOS is a closed ecosystem, users can only install applications from the App Store, which Apple checks thoroughly,” said Morgenstern. “Malware creators are unlikely to get malware in the store.”

That does not mean it’s impossible, of course, and there have been incidents where legitimate apps in the iOS app store got infected with malware. In one case, cybercriminals were able to trick Chinese application developers into using a counterfeit version of an Apple development tool.

“Another infection vector can be a vulnerability in iOS that can allow attackers to infect your device,” said Morgenstern.

In 2017, WikiLeaks published details of the CIA’s piracy tools. The report included some methods that the CIA had used to access iPhones by exploiting vulnerabilities in iOS. Apple hastened to issue a statement saying that most of the vulnerabilities had already been fixed and that the rest would soon be, but it is perfectly plausible that someone is aware and is currently exploiting a vulnerability in the system and surely there will be people working . in finding more As Apple people work tirelessly to block and patch vulnerabilities.

One of the reasons why iOS is relatively safe compared to Android is that cybercriminals and other attackers will first look for the path of least resistance or low yielding fruit. Many of the vulnerabilities discovered in Android are patched on all devices. Google can act quickly, but updates only reach some phones when the manufacturer and provider match it. Apple does not have this problem, so the patches can be removed much more quickly. There are also many more Android users, so it’s a bigger goal.

Common threats across platforms

Successful identity theft attacks, in which people are involved in volunteering confidential details, are common in iOS and Android, because they do not necessarily require people to install anything first. A victim may be presented with what appears to be a legitimate login screen, but in reality has been created by criminals, and when they enter their login data, they are effectively delivering it.

We have also seen an increase in smishing, which is actually only phishing through mobile text messages. People can receive what appears to be a regular text message from a large company with a link in it and, if they click on that link, they are redirected to a fake website or activated a download of malware of some kind. These types of messages have all kinds of disguises, from tax refunds to security warnings that you need to update your banking information.

Being tricked by the details should be easy to avoid. Never log in to anything through links in emails, text messages or social media messages. Enter the address in your browser or log in through the application.

The malware is a bit like a vampire: it has to be invited to your iPhone. By default, you can not install applications from outside the App Store. If you get an unexpected pop-up message that tries to install something that is always outside of it, do not invite it. However, there is a risk that annoying things appear such as web page redirects that bother you with pop-ups. If you find those options, go to Settings> Safari> Clear history and website data and then tap again to confirm and it should be fine.