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There’s a virus on my iPhone, what do I do?

The good news is that Apple fixes vulnerabilities pretty quickly, but there’s still a chance you might get infected in the meantime

apple iphone 11 and iphone 11 pro
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Apple’s smartphones are known for being extra secure and less prone to getting malware. Some even go as far as saying that you can’t get a virus on an iPhone because Apple is really strict with the apps they accept in the AppStore, and the iOS ecosystem, in general, is better controlled. However, getting a virus on your iPhone isn’t impossible, and it’s precisely that sense of security that sometimes makes you do things that compromise your operating system and lose important data.

Case in point, jailbreaking. Experts argue that jailbreaking is the #1 reason why iPhones become vulnerable to malware and that you should refrain from doing it unless you’re an expert and have a legitimate reason for it. What exactly is jailbreaking?

Jailbreaking is a process by which you’re bypassing Apple’s restrictions and gaining full access to the operating system. Normally iOS is one of the most locked ecosystems but, through jailbreaking, you can install apps that Apple hasn’t authorized, delete stocks apps, change the look of the OS. However, this freedom comes at a cost.

Jailbreaking an iPhone isn’t illegal, but Apple warns that doing so voids the warranty and exposes your phone to many security risks. For example, you no longer get updates, and the non-authorized apps you install could be loaded with malware and allow hackers to access your phone. When an iPhone gets a virus, it’s usually because of jailbreaking.

However, there are other ways your phone can get infected, such as a “zero-day vulnerability.” This type of vulnerability affects millions of devices and refers to security flaws that are known to the developer but that haven’t been solved yet. Usually, these vulnerabilities are quite common after a new OS version was launched, but older security flaws are discovered all the time.

The good news is that Apple fixes vulnerabilities pretty quickly, but there’s still a chance you might get infected in the meantime.

Signs that your iPhone may be infected

iphone 12 pro max camera
Image: Unsplash

The cases of iPhones getting infected with malware and the owner not realizing it are pretty rare. Most of the time, you’ll know something off because your phone is behaving weird, and you notice some of these signs:

  • You find an app that you don’t remember installing
  • Your apps are constantly crashing or freezing
  • Your phone is laggier than normal without any apparent explanation
  • You see pop-up ads even though you’re not using any browser or ad
  • You’re running out of battery faster than usual
  • You get higher phone bills and notice higher data usage

Keep in mind, noticing just one of the signs might not be a cause of alarm. For example, an app can crash because the developer didn’t update it, or your phone can run slow because you’re running out of memory. When in doubt, install an antivirus tool and scan your phone. It will tell you if the bugs you’re getting are caused by a virus or it’s just time to close some of those background apps.

Malware removal and recovery tips

Finding out that your iPhone has a virus can feel pretty scary – sometimes, even scarier than having your laptop infected because your iPhone has a lot more personal stuff. You have there all your contacts, text messages, browsing history, photos, not to mention personal notes, passwords, and payment information. The prospect of losing all this data, or worse, having someone else access it and use it for their personal goals, would make anyone worry.

Fortunately, getting rid of a virus isn’t that difficult. First of all, try to narrow down the source of the virus. For example, if you see an app you don’t recognize, uninstall it because that could be where the virus is coming from. Next up, install an antivirus to scan your phone and see if the virus didn’t spread anywhere else.

You can find lots of free antivirus apps out there, but since the integrity of your personal data is at stake, it’s best if you download a paid one because it scans for more threats. Or, at least get a free trial for a good antivirus. In the best cases, the antivirus will remove the malware, and you’ll be able to use your phone again as usual. Want to be extra safe? Install a second antivirus to make sure the first one didn’t skip anything.

Alternatively, you can try restoring a version of the operating system since before it got infected (if you know when that was). To do that, you can use iTunes, but many people don’t actually like that because it doesn’t give you any control over what items you want to keep and what to delete. For more flexibility, you can use a third-party app and get help recovering the messages on iPhones, as well as photos, call history, WhatsApp chat history, browsing history, and more.

These third-party apps also come in handy if the virus somehow managed to erase some of your data. It sounds very specific, but some malware just deletes your text messages and contacts, which is a major nuisance.  

In 90% of cases, you should be set by using these straightforward strategies. However, there’s also a slim chance that you caught a nasty virus and might have to do a full reset to factory settings. Although you can still recover part of your data after restoring to factory settings, you’ll have to be very careful when picking the files to restore.

When the entire process is complete, and your iPhone is malware-free, you probably want to avoid reliving the experience. The good news is that iOS is the most secure mobile operating system but, even so, you have to be very careful what files you download, install all security patches on time, and, most importantly, avoid jailbreaking your phone. If it’s already jailbroken, then make sure you have a good antivirus installed and up-to-date.

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