It is one of the most popular questions I get: do I need an anti-virus app for my iPhone? I’ve been giving out the same advice on this topic for years and years, especially on my podcast, but then I thought to myself: what if I’m wrong? I decided to consult a cybersecurity expert to find out.
I met up with Kevin Tadevosyan, CEO of CyberDuo, a company that helps small businesses keep their systems secure and safe from the threat of hackers, malware, viruses, and Ransomware.
“There is no device or computer system that is not hackable,” started Tadevosyan.
He says the cost of hacking has come down considerably, which is why we see it happening more often. It’s also the reason why we get so many spam texts on our smartphones, which is a big way that the bad folks worm their way into our phones.
These texts target our personal information, login usernames and passwords, and financial information, like bank account and card numbers.
“They either use that, or they sell it,” explained Tadevosyan.
His first piece of advice: don’t click those random links.
“It links you to another page, you open another page and another page; that can be very dangerous,” said Tadevosyan.
He says consumers should enable two factor authentication on accounts, “no exception.”
This means that even if hackers get your password, they’ll still have trouble logging in because they’ll need a “second factor” of authentication, which is a random number generated by an app or texted to your phone number.
Also, avoid public WiFi when you can. If you use an open network, it’s best to use a VPN. If you’re accessing sensitive information like your bank account, it’s best to use your home WiFi or switch to your cellular connection.
Even charging your phone in public can potentially put you at risk of “juice jacking.” Tadevosyan recommends using a small USB device called a data blocker to plug in your phone. It allows your phone to charge but disables data transfer; this way no one can secretly install malware on your phone.
For maximum security, turn on the option in settings that will erase your entire phone after a certain number of failed passcode attempts. On iPhone, find it under Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Erase Data. On Samsung, find it under Settings > Lock Screen > Secure lock settings > Auto factory reset.
If you turn on this setting, just be sure your phone is regularly backed up and you understand how everything will be erased if someone types in the wrong passcode 10 (iPhone) or 15 (Samsung) times.
Keep in mind, if you have kids this option might be tricky since they are known to try a bunch of random passcode attempts and could mistakenly erase your phone if this feature is turned on.
Finally, the answer to one of the most popular questions I get: do you need anti-virus software on an iPhone? Turns out, you probably don’t.
“Apple limits the power of any app on the system, they live in separate containers, which makes them secure,” explained Tadevosyan.
In other words, apps on the iPhone can’t interact or interfere with each other, nor can they “take over” your phone like they can on a desktop system. If you’re downloading apps from Apple’s own App Store and not jailbreaking or somehow sideloading apps to your phone, you should be OK.
If you’re on Android, it’s a slightly different story. The Android operating system works a bit differently than iOS and for that reason, security experts do recommend installing an anti-virus app on an Android device.
Bottom line: be careful when installing apps from outside the official app stores, enable two-factor authentication, and don’t click links from unknown senders and you can avoid most major security headaches.