The 5 Best Antivirus for iOS
Over the years, Apple have taken a fairly firm stance on antivirus packages for iPhones and other iDevices: Essentially, they’ve said that such programs are not required due to the way that iOS works.
As all applications come via Apple’s app store, and have to be checked by Apple beforehand, many people argue that there’s not really any way to introduce malware to an iOS device (or, at least, not to a legitimate device that hasn’t been “jail-broken.”)
However, in recent times, high profile studies have revealed that are are some cracks in Apple’s security, and that iOS isn’t inherently “virus proof.” Given the millions of iDevices out there, it would be highly naive to think that cyber criminals aren’t working on ways to exploit the platform.
Unsurprisingly, most Internet security vendors are keen to get some kind of iOS antivirus product out there, but pickings in Apple’s app store are surprisingly thin. The same operating system security that makes it hard to create malware for the iOS platform makes it equally hard to produce a fully-fledged antivirus product.
As such, many of the “antivirus” products for iOS are more like generic “security” apps, which don’t really work in the same way as a traditional antivirus package (by monitoring the underlying filesystem).
This causes some confusion amongst iOS users who expect an antivirus app to scan in the same way the PC equivalent would. This usually leads to lots of undeserved negative app store reviews, caused by a lack of understanding as to exactly how iOS works, and how much Apple lock it down.
iOS security apps are not devoid of value. The “antivirus” apps often work to keep you safe on the Web in other ways, and some have functionality to prevent your device becoming a “carrier” of viruses that could end up on your desktop PC when you synchronise.
We’ve done plenty of research to create this particular top 5, and focussed on products that have at least some genuine value. Even though antivirus for iOS isn’t as important as it is on a Windows platform (or even on Android), security-conscious users will probably still wish to consider one of these products.
Winner – Intego VirusBarrier
Positives: The closest to “traditional” antivirus protection
Negatives: Nothing much extra to keep you safe online
Intego’s chargeable VirusBarrier product (99p in the UK) makes it to the top of this table, because it’s the closest thing to a regular antivirus product available for iOS.
Even so, plenty of App Store reviewers mark it down when they discover that it’s essentially just an on-demand scanner for email attachments, “loose” files, and files accessed remotely using file sync services. What these reviewers fail to realise is that Apple don’t make it possible to even create a product that scans the whole filesystem.
Putting aside some users’ lack of understanding, this is a simple and clear app that is easy to use. Most significantly, it prevents you from unwittingly hosting an infected file on your device and then transferring it to a Windows computer when you sync.
VirusBarrier’s not loaded with features, and it’s not even particularly exciting, but it’s the closest thing that iOS users have to a true antivirus product at the time of writing.
2. avast! SecureLine VPN
Positives: Lots of Web safety features
Negatives: Requires annual subscription
No, we haven’t made a mistake. This IS a VPN app, but it is also an effective security package for iOS.
SecureLine takes a completely different approach to VirusBarrier, and concentrates on what an iOS app can usefully do, given Apple’s operating system restrictions.
So, what we have here is protection from phishing sites, ad blocking, basic virus protection, and the ability to use a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel whilst on public WiFi to increase your security.
SecureLine isn’t a true antivirus package, but given that they don’t really exist for iOS, it’s a very good alternative for the security-focussed.
3. Avira Mobile Security
Positives: A good selection of features
Negatives: Some duplication of functionality already in iOS
On the face of it, Avira Mobile Security looks full of features. It is, to a point, but several of them are pretty superficial. Detecting whether a device is “jailbroken” is hardly a feature – one would expect the device’s owner to know!
Still, Avira’s approach to an iOS security package is a solid one. Obviously aware that full filesystem scanning is off the table, Avira have instead integrated anti-theft features and linked the software with their own cloud-based backup solution. The software also “scans apps for malicious processes,” but just how useful that is in a closed environment is a matter for debate.
We won’t heavily criticise a free app with plenty of functions, but would suggest you consider whether you really need cloud storage and anti-theft when iCloud and “Find my iPhone” both exist already.
4. Trend Micro Smart Surfing
Positives: Completely free
Negatives: The app only really fulfils one function
If you want to know what Trend Micro Smart Surfing does, the clue is in the name.
This isn’t an antivirus product in the traditional sense, but is instead intended to keep you protected whilst browsing the Web on your iDevice.
The product uses Trend’s cloud-based “Smart Protection” database to alert you to sites that host malware or may be out to get your personal details.
That’s essentially it! You can control how sensitive the software is, but there’s not a lot else in the way of options. Still, it provides some extra security and costs nothing.
5. Norton Mobile Security
Positives: A fair few features
Negatives: Expensive, Android users get much more
Norton Mobile Security differs substantially from the other products in this roundup. For a start, it doesn’t come cheap (at around $30 per year for multiple devices).
What, at first glance, appears to be a very comprehensive package, soon becomes a bit of a disappointment when you read the small print: “most features available on Android devices only.” This isn’t really Symantec’s fault, it’s more down to Apple’s own restrictions.
You get thinks like protection for your contacts and help finding lost devices, but there is some duplication with existing iOS features.
If you’re a family with a selection of devices, including Android items, then it’s worth putting this on your iDevices too – after all it’s included in the licence. However, we’d stop short of recommending paying out the money for iDevices alone.