Search around online and you’ll find the general advice is that you don’t need antivirus on your iPhone or iPad. And while the reasons for that advice are sound, the real answer is a bit more nuanced than an outright no.
Apple has designed iOS – and iPadOS – in such a way that it is very difficult for malware, including viruses, to penetrate its defenses. This is a good thing, but remember that modern antivirus software does far more than detecting and blocking viruses.
In fact, calling it ‘antivirus software’ does it a disservice as the threats go way beyond viruses these days. The latest security software protects your device – and you – from a much wider range of dangers.
The people who create viruses are in a constant battle with the companies that make the operating systems (such as iOS and iPadOS), and have realized that it’s far easier to trick the user into handing over their password and payment details than trying to make some malware that will achieve the same result.
After all, the criminals are after your identity and your money: that’s the end game.
So, this means that running an ‘antivirus’ app on your iPhone and iPad can be a very good idea indeed as it can protect your from yourself!
Here are some of the things that security apps can do – even on Apple devices:
Warn you of potentially fake websites that might try to steal sensitive information
Warn you of dangerous links in messages and emails
Manage your passwords for you so you can have a strong, unique password for every website (and not use the same one for all accounts)
Increase your privacy online by using a VPN
Protect your identity by giving you early warning if any of your personal info is found on the dark web
Protect your photos and videos so only you can access them
So while they won’t protect your iPhone or iPad from viruses (because they don’t need to), they are far from pointless and you should certainly consider installing one of them.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
If you’re in a hurry and simply want to know what to install, then here are three we recommend.
Avast One could be the most tempting of these as it’s free to use for one device. Some features are either limited or locked away until you pay for it (read our review if you want to know the details), but the free version still offers a lot for nothing. A subscription to Norton can be purchased for just one iOS device, but it’s better value if you go for Norton 360 Deluxe which covers any five of your devices.
McAfee Security works in exactly the same way and requires a subscription to at least one device. But again, opting for a subscription to McAfee’s Total Protection (which covers five or 10 devices) works out cheaper per device.
Almost every security app works across iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and macOS, so it makes sense to install the same one on all your devices for convenience, as well as because it’s always the cheapest way to protect them. See our roundup of the best antivirus software for more recommendations.
It’s worth noting that Android phones can get viruses, so you have both an iPhone and Android, you should install an antivirus app on your Android phone as soon as possible. Here are the best antivirus apps for Android.
What else can I do to keep my iPhone and iPad secure?
It’s simple: keep it updated. Any potential vulnerabilities in iOS or iPadOS are usually fixed in the latest software update. This is one reason why you shouldn’t ignore the reminders that a new version of iOS is available.
And if you’re worried about apps using your device’s camera or microphone to spy on you, then remember that all apps must ask your permission to access the camera, microphone, your contacts, photos and other things.
So only tap ‘Allow’ when first prompted if you are sure you trust the app. And make sure you read carefully what an app is asking permission for when there’s a longer list.
You should also follow the usual security advice that applies regardless of the device you’re using: don’t tap on links in emails unless you’re sure they’re from a genuine sender, don’t give out your bank details or password unless you’re absolutely sure it is safe and use an encrypted messaging service such as WhatsApp and iMessage if you ever have to share sensitive details like these with a friend or family member.