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Can iPads Get Viruses?

Lukas Grigas
Cybersecurity Content Writer

For the longest time, Apple devices have had an outstanding reputation for being secure. But does that reputation stand up to scrutiny? Can your iPad get a virus? If it does, how can you prevent that from happening? Let's find out.

Can an iPad get a virus or be hacked?

Definitions are important, especially in cybersecurity. So let's start by defining the term computer virus. A virus is a specific type of malicious software that self-replicates by inserting its code into other programs. Sounds scary, right?

Well, have no fear. iPads are relatively resistant to viruses. That's because of the operating system that your iPad runs. The iOS is a compartmentalized operating system, which means that apps are isolated from each other, making it almost impossible for a computer virus to infect the iOS system and spread within it.

But while viruses are not a threat to your iPad, it doesn't mean it's immune to other cyber threats. Recent reports indicate that over 128 million iOS users allegedly infected their devices with the XcodeGhost malware, which spread via the Apple App Store.

Your iPad getting hacked is also a real possibility. While Apple might provide great security measures to help its users battle possible cyber threats, the company can do almost nothing regarding hacking incidents. Today, getting unauthorized access to a device, such as an iPad, usually involves sophisticated social engineering schemes.

Staying diligent, aware, and alert about the possible threats that your iPad might be susceptible to is your best bet to keep it secure at all times.

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Types of threats to iPads

While virtually no known viruses can infect an iPad, other types of cyber threats exist. Here are a few common security threats that you should be aware of to protect your iPad.

  • Malware

    Malware is any malicious piece of software that's built to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to a system. Different types of malware can act in different ways. Some might be designed to record your keystrokes, while others might be built to provide access for hackers to your iPad.

    Suppose you notice that your iPad has recently slowed down or displayed suspicious activity such as randomly crashing. In that case, it can be a sign of malware, which you should take time to investigate.

  • Adware

    Adware is a type of malware that is built to flood your device with a large number of targeted ads. In most cases, adware is not malicious in a traditional sense, but it can be extremely annoying and cause your iPad to slow down. The obvious giveaway that your iPad is infected with adware is an excessive amount of ads. Lots and lots of ads. One effective way to battle adware is to clear your browsing history and website data regularly. To do so on an iPad:

    • Go to “Settings” and select “Safari.”
    • Scroll down
    • Click “Clear history and website data.”
  • Spyware

    Spyware — as the name suggests — is a piece of malicious software designed to spy on the victim. Spyware can track passwords, personal info, or just your activity online. While no prevalent strain of spyware targets iPads exclusively, it can still infect your devices if you download apps from suspicious sites or open suspicious email attachments. Much like any other malware, spyware can slow down your iPad and make it act in unusual ways.

  • Phishing

    Phishing is a practice hackers use to trick you into sharing your sensitive information, such as login credentials, by convincing you to click a malicious link or download a dangerous attachment. Phishing schemes can be sophisticated and specifically targeted. For instance, a phishing campaign might focus on iPad users. In such a situation, bad actors send email messages informing iPad users that they must execute a security scan on their devices. By clicking the link or downloading any attachment from a phishing email, you risk providing unauthorized access to your device.

How to remove malware from your iPad

If you suspect that your iPad is infected with malware, don't panic. You can take several steps to get rid of devious applications.

  • Restart your iPad

    Malicious apps can cause your device to slow down or act suspiciously. The root cause for that is usually processes running in the background. Some of those processes could be launched by you simply clicking a malicious link. While restarting your devices does not guarantee that the malware will be eradicated, it could help stop the malicious process from running in the background. Here's how you can restart your iPad:

    • Press and hold the “Power.” button
    • Slide to power off.
    • Press and hold the “Power” button to turn on your iPad.
  • Use a backup to restore your iPad

    Using the iCloud backup feature, you can quickly restore your iPad to a previous state before your device was infected with malware. Here's how you can do it:

    • Go to “Settings.”
    • Select “General.”
    • Choose “Reset.”
    • Select “Erase all content and settings.”
    • Select “Erase now.”
    • Now choose “Restore from iCloud backup.”
    • Sign in to iCloud and select the backup from which you want to restore your iPad.
  • Reset your device

    Factory reset is often the last resort regarding malware removal from an iPad. However, it is also the only foolproof method because a factory reset terminates all of your iPad's content except for the default Apple apps. If you have data you can't afford to lose on your iPad, it is a good idea to back it up before committing to a factory reset. Here's how you can reset your iPad:

    • Go to “Settings.”
    • Select “General.”
    • Choose “Reset.”
    • Select “Erase all content and settings.”
    • Select “Erase now.”

Does iPad need antivirus?

Because of its unique operating system — the iOS — iPads do not require antivirus software. Usually, antivirus apps for iOS devices use dubious advertising strategies that prey on your fear of your device becoming infected with a virus. However, the fact remains — no known viruses have been designed to affect iOS devices such as the iPad.

How to protect your iPad from hackers

You can protect your iPad from hackers and malware in a number of ways. Some of them include taking advantage of your iPad's internal security features. Knowing what kind of threats your iPad is susceptible to can significantly improve your overall security posture.

  • Regularly update software

    Software updates are often rolled out to fix annoying functionality bugs and patch potential security loopholes. Having the latest version of iOS or any other app can dramatically reduce the chances of exposing your iPad to dubious and otherwise malicious applications.

  • Refrain from jailbreaking your iPad

    You might want to download apps from outside the App Store, and the easiest way to do so is by jailbreaking your iPad. However, this action introduces substantial security risks. The App Store maintains high security standards to prevent cybercrooks from putting their malicious apps on it. Having your iPad jailbroken might offer you more options for apps, but remember, those options are in no way verified and often pose various risks.

  • Use a complex, unique password for your Apple ID

    Weak, old, or reused passwords are often the leading cause of data leaks and other hacks. A strong Apple ID password should comprise lower- and uppercase letters, numbers, and special symbols. Hackers often use brute-force or dictionary attacks to access unsuspecting people's accounts. However, a complex and unique password can easily withstand such attacks.

  • Use a passcode along with Face or Touch ID

    One of the most potent and valuable security features your iPad offers is the ability to set a passcode with Face or Touch ID. Enabling lock-screen security measures ensures that you first need to enter a passcode or use Face or Touch ID to unlock your iPad. If you lose your iPad or it's stolen, thieves won’t be able to use because they won’t know the passcode.

  • Activate the Find My iPad feature

    Find My iPad is a built-in feature that uses GPS to locate your device in case you've lost it or it has been stolen. The Find My iPad app also allows you to remotely lock and delete the contents of your iPad in case of an emergency. Furthermore, the feature allows you to display your phone number as a notification on your iPad so that anybody who's found it can do a good deed and contact you.

  • Limit app permissions

    Applications you don't use regularly should not gather data just because it is on your iPad. To limit data tracking and ensure maximum privacy and security on your iPad, restrict app permissions as much as possible.

  • Create strong passwords and secure them

    Strong, unique passwords are crucial to keep your iPad secure. However, creating a different complex password for all your online accounts can be difficult. Remembering such passwords is also a challenge. This is where a password manager for iOS, such as NordPass, can help.

    NordPass allows you to securely store and access all your passwords, credit card details, and personal information whenever you need them. Even when you're offline. The built-in Password Generator makes creating complex passwords a matter of a few clicks. Another advanced security feature, Password Health, can identify whether any of your passwords are weak, reused, or old. At the same time, the Data Breach Scanner helps you determine if your personal information has been compromised in a data leak.

  • Links or files that come your way from unknown senders should be avoided at all costs. This is how bad actors love to spread malware. Before downloading an attachment or following a link, make sure it comes from a source you trust. Doing so will dramatically decrease the chances of exposing yourself to cyber threats.

Bottom line

Just because your iPad is not susceptible to computer viruses doesn't mean it is exempt from cyber threats. Hackers find creative ways to access your device even if the iOS is designed to provide as much protection as possible. To stay safe online and keep your iPad unaffected by suspicious software, you must remain diligent and familiarize yourself with potential threats.

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