Is It Possible to Get an iPhone Virus?

Security is always a concern for any iPhone user

An illustration of a person holding a smartphone that has a virus.

 Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Let's start with the good news: most iPhone users don’t have to worry about their phone picking up a virus. However, in an age when we store so much sensitive personal data on our smartphones, security is a major concern. Given that, it's not surprising that you may be worried about getting a virus on your iPhone.

While it's technically possible for iPhones (and iPod touches and iPads, since they run the same operating system) to get viruses, the likelihood of that happening right now is extremely low. There have only been a few iPhone viruses ever created and most were created by security professionals for academic and research purposes and haven't been released on the internet.

What Increases Your iPhone Virus Risk

The only iPhone viruses that have been seen "in the wild" (meaning that they're a possible threat to actual iPhone owners) are worms that almost exclusively attack iPhones that have been jailbroken. So, as long as you haven't jailbroken your device, your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad should be safe from viruses. 

You can get a sense of how much risk there is of getting an iPhone virus based on what antivirus software is available for the iPhone. Turns out, there isn't any.

All of the major antivirus companies—McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, etc.—have security apps available for the iPhone, but none of those apps contain antivirus tools. Rather, they focus on helping you find lost devices, backing up your data, securing your web browsing, and protecting your privacy.

There simply aren’t any antivirus programs in the App Store(the ones that carry that name are games or tools to scan attachments for viruses that couldn't infect the iOS anyway). The closest any company came to releasing one was McAfee. That antivirus company developed an internal app back in 2008, but never released it.

If there was a real need for iPod touch, iPad, or iPhone virus protection, you can be sure the big security companies would be offering products for it. Since they're not, it's pretty safe to assume it's something you don't need to worry about.

Why iPhones Don't Get Viruses

The reasons that iPhones aren't susceptible to viruses are fairly complex—moreso than we need to go into here—but basic concept is simple. Viruses are programs that are designed to do malicious things—like stealing your data or taking over your computer—and spread themselves to other computers. In order to do that, the virus needs to be able to run on the device and communicate with other programs to get their data or control them.

The iOS doesn't let apps do that. Apple designed the iOS so that every app runs in its own, restricted space. Apps have limited abilities to communicate with each other, but by restricting the ways apps interact with each other and the operating system itself, Apple has reduced the risk of viruses on the iPhone. Combine that with needing to install apps from the App Store, which Apple reviews before letting users download, and it's a pretty secure system.

Other iPhone Security Issues

Viruses aren't the only security issue you should pay attention. There's theft, losing your device, and digital spying to be concerned about. To get up to speed on those issues, check out these articles: