Can your iPhone be hacked? What to know about iOS security | WeLiveSecurity (2023)

Here are some of the most common ways that an iPhone can be compromised with malware, how to tell it’s happened to you, and how to remove a hacker from your device

Let’s be clear: if your iPhone or iPad is connected to the internet, there’s a risk it might get hacked. Sure, statistics seem to support the idea that your iOS device is pretty safe (and Apple keeps adding new safety features), but your security largely hinges on how you actually use the device.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common ways for malware to compromise iPhones, some warning signs your own phone may have been hacked, and how to ‘fight back’.

How can an iPhone be hacked?

Sideloaded apps

One of the biggest complaints about iOS is how slow the operating system is in adopting features that have long been present on Android devices. So to overcome this, some users resort to an option that goes against Apple’s Terms and Conditions: they jailbreak their phone.

This bypasses the built-in limitations to content from Apple’s App Store, allowing users to sideload apps and widgets from third-party stores. Sideloading – the act of getting an app from an unofficial store – can also be done by downloading it directly through a website on Safari or any other browser.

While allowing, or not, access to content from third-party stores can be debatable, as of now, only the applications on the App Store have been officially reviewed for safety. Meanwhile, the risks are clear: when installing a non-verified app, you are giving it unrestricted access to your device.

Fake apps in the App Store

Apple’s official store on your iOS device is generally known for providing safe content. Any application made available on the App Store has gone through a process that checked for bugs, privacy policy concerns, identification of third-party ad providers, and licensing requirements.

But sometimes a bad app(le) slips through the safety net. And a simple calendar event spam, a malicious link shared via messaging apps, or an aggressive advertisement displayed while browsing a website can open the App Store and suggest that you to install one of these inaccurately reviewed apps.

And because they are on the official store, there’s no reason to doubt their authenticity, right? Wrong. Such a dodgy app will try to cash in by, for example, selling you something you don’t need (and that doesn’t work) using Apple’s own in-app purchase system.

Fake Antivirus found on Apple's App Store charges €134,99 per 3 months for removing non existing viruses.
Delivered via scareware ads, results in subscription scam.
More about the research: https://t.co/oqL80J3BNR https://t.co/IfwBD1KAdd

(Video) How to Check If Your iPhone Has Been Hacked and How to Remove Hacks

— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) August 5, 2021

Calendar invites

Your iPhone’s Calendar app might seem like the safest place on your device, but it is actually one of the most common ways to distribute malware on iOS. Just like anyone you’ve just met can send you a Calendar invitation for a coffee later that week, hackers can do the same!

These unwanted invites can come from leaked email addresses or from you after unintentionally subscribed to calendar events on dodgy websites. Remember that scams are designed for people to fall for them. So in case you do, unsubscribe from the calendar and never tap on individual events you don’t know and trust as they will lead you to more spam.

Figure 1. Scam website requests a user to subscribe to calendar events on iOS

Configuration profiles

Back in 2010, Apple made it possible to add configuration profiles to its iOS devices. This way, companies could manage on their iPhones a series of specific settings and functions as well as install apps used internally that do not need to be publicly available on the App Store.

While this is a useful tool for the legitimate use of companies and schools, hackers learned to take advantage of this feature. As usual, through phishing attacks and social engineering traps, hackers can lead their victims into tapping a link that will install a malicious configuration profile, granting them access to your Wi-Fi, VPN settings, app management, or internet traffic.

More than just the privacy and safety risks posed by this kind of threat, most users are not aware of profile management options, giving hackers the time needed to explore and exploit user’s password, steal banking information, or even install spyware.

Figure 2. Malicious cryptocurrency wallet app installed via a configuration profile

(Video) can iphone be hacked? Here's what you need to about iphone security

The risks are real

If getting spam on your calendar sounds like a minor risk, having someone tracking you might sound much worse. But the most vicious thing about this type of hacking is that they are all interconnected. What was initially a small spam event invitation can easily escalate to installing a sideloaded app or a malicious configuration profile.

Bear in mind that your phone can also fall in the wrong hands without you noticing. This can be particularly sensitive in the context of abusive relationships. Stalkerware – a tool used to access your devices remotely – can be installed on your phone without your consent. Attackers can then target your personal information on iCloud, track your location, or access your photos and notes.

How can I tell if my iPhone has been hacked?

If you suspect or fear your iPhone has been hacked, there’s a few things you can check to start with:

  • Battery levels: Batteries naturally wear down over time. However, if your device is just a few months old, battery draining too fast might be a sign of unexpected background activity. Check what apps are using battery and your battery health to discard this option.
  • Data: If you’re not a heavy user of your mobile data plan, but you still reach its limits very fast, there’s a chance your iPhone has been hacked. Hidden software on your device might be using your data to pass on information. Keep in mind, however, the most likely is that you’re giving permission for some app to work on the background.
  • Strange “things”: Is there an app on your iPhone that you don’t remember downloading? Or maybe an app that seems duplicated? These might be clears signs your device has been hacked. Attackers may attempt to install this content on your phone through a sideloaded app and even if are tech-savvy, you can be vulnerable to these ploys.

How do I remove a hacker from my iPhone?

  1. Check whether your device is jailbroken. Whether you’ve been hacked or you’re being stalked, you might not be aware that your phone has been jailbroken by someone else. As Apple now allows for apps to be removed from the Home Screen, use the search function to find jailbreaking apps like Cydia or Sileo. If you find them, fully restore your device to factory settings.
  2. Delete unnecessary apps and configuration profiles. If you have apps you’re not using, like wallpaper or weather apps, delete them. Even if they are safe, they might be tracking and selling your data to third parties. Also remove any configuration profiles that have not been installed by your organization or school.
  3. Check your apps’ settings. Take the time to use the Settings app to go through all your installed apps and check the permissions you give them. Know which apps you’ve given permission to use your location, and remove that consent from apps that don’t need it.
  4. Erase your iPhone or iPad content and settings. Make sure you have a backup of your photos and documents before fully restoring your device. Once you turn it back on, it will be clean from any malware and you can simply log in with your Apple ID to make it your own once again.

Figure 4. Giving an iPhone a fresh start

Can I prevent being hacked?

Everybody can fall victim to a cyberattack, but you can minimize your risks by following a few simple steps.

  1. Do not jailbreak your iPhone. Resist the temptation. There might be a lot of cool features out there, but the dangers are not worth it. Plus, jailbreaking voids your device’s warranty!
  2. Do not install third-party apps. There are thousands of apps on the official store. If you choose an iPhone, try to stick to what is safe for you and your device.
  3. Be on the lookout for phishing scams. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you won’t fall for scams; we all do. So beware of scam emails that request personal information and might steal account credentials.
  4. Do not open links from people you don’t know and recognize. This is simple advice but it will help you avoid a lot of headache.
  5. Use multi-factor authentication. If hackers take over your phone, prevent them from attacking your other accounts successfully. Add extra steps to protect your credentials.
  6. Use a VPN. It will bolster your privacy and data protection, particularly if you are using a public Wi-Fi network.
  7. Always keep your phone up to date. Make sure you are using the latest iOS update. Apple regularly adds new versions with new functionalities and, more importantly, safety patches to secure your devices.

In the end, no matter how likely you are to get hacked, it’s important to understand the risks and implement a few simple precautions. Avoiding to jailbreak your device, refraining from tapping on unfamiliar links, and using multi-factor authentication wherever it’s available will go a long way towards protecting your device and your data.

André Lameiras

(Video) 4 Ways To Check If Your iPhone Has Been Hacked (2022)

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FAQs

How do you know if your iPhone has been hacked 2022? ›

The easiest way to tell if your iPhone has been hacked is by running a full device scan with top-tier antivirus security software. This will check your iPhone for any suspicious apps or activity and alert you to any unusual behaviors that may have gone unnoticed.

Can an iPhone actually get hacked? ›

Let's be clear: if your iPhone or iPad is connected to the internet, there's a risk it might get hacked. Sure, statistics seem to support the idea that your iOS device is pretty safe (and Apple keeps adding new safety features), but your security largely hinges on how you actually use the device.

How secure is iOS from hackers? ›

Apple prides itself on setting a high standard for user privacy and data security on every device it produces. However, your iPhone might not be as secure as you think. It's true that iPhones are more difficult to hack than other mobile devices, as they are produced by one manufacturer dedicated to keeping them secure.

Can someone connect to my iPhone without me knowing? ›

Answer: A: They can not access your phone, but if they have the credentials for you iCloud account, they could access anything stored in or synced to iCloud, including iMessages, photos, etc. Change your password and set up 2 factor authentication if you suspect someone may have your credentials.

Can you check to see if your phone is hacked? ›

Use the code *#21# to see if hackers track your phone with malicious intent. You can also use this code to verify if your calls, messages, or other data are being diverted. It also shows your diverted information's status and the number to which the information is transferred.

How safe is Apple security? ›

App security

Apple provides layers of protection designed to ensure that apps are free of known malware and haven't been tampered with. Other protections help ensure that access from apps to user data is carefully mediated.

Can someone hack my iPhone and watch me? ›

Neither the iPhone, nor its camera has any known vulnerability that would allow it to be remotely hacked and used. If you read the document you linked to, you'll see how remotely hacking the camera on an iPhone is virtually impossible.

Is iPhone safer than Android? ›

So what is more secure: Android or iOS? Studies show that mobile malware targets Android much more than iOS, so for this reason, and all the others stated in this article, iOS is more secure. While you can remove malware from Android and iPhone, it's better not to get it in the first place.

Can iPhones be hacked through safari? ›

As per the blog, the latest Safari's Version 15 has a bug, which gets activated while implementing the IndexedDB API. This bug allows the hackers to track and steal users' information and then use them as they like.

How do I check for malware on my iPhone? ›

How to Check Your iPhone for a Virus or Malware
  1. Look for Unfamiliar Apps. ...
  2. Check if Your Device Is Jailbroken. ...
  3. Find Out if You Have Any Large Bills. ...
  4. Look at Your Storage Space. ...
  5. Restart Your iPhone. ...
  6. Delete Unusual Apps. ...
  7. Clear Your History. ...
  8. Use Security Software.
3 Mar 2022

Can you get rid of a hacker in your phone? ›

Run Antivirus Applications

Just as with a desktop or laptop computer, antivirus software will scan your device and remove any detected malware and spyware. Once you're done with the antivirus detection, set the application to run regular scans and remove all applications the scan flags as suspicious.

What can a hacker see on your phone? ›

Hackers can use keyloggers and other tracking software to capture your phone's keystrokes and record what you type, such as search entries, login credentials, passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information.

What does it look like when your phone is hacked? ›

If you find apps you haven't downloaded, or calls, texts, and emails that you didn't send, that's a red flag. A hacker may have hijacked your phone to send premium-rate calls or messages or to spread malware to your contacts. Similarly, if you see spikes in your data usage, that could be a sign of a hack as well.

How can you tell if your phone is being monitored by someone else? ›

Mobile Spyware: How to Tell If Your Phone Is Being Monitored
  • Your phone randomly reboots without your permission.
  • You notice your phone is slow and takes longer to load than before.
  • You receive strange text messages you can't place.
  • Your device tends to overheat for no reason.

How can I see who has access to my iPhone? ›

Sign in to the Apple ID website (https://appleid.apple.com) and review all the personal and security information in your account to see if there is any information that someone else has added. If you have two-factor authentication turned on, review trusted devices for any devices that you don't recognize.

Can someone view my iPhone screen? ›

Regardless of whether you use an iPhone or an Android smartphone, it is possible for someone to install spyware onto your phone that secretly tracks and reports on your activity. It's even possible for someone to monitor your cell phone's activity without ever even touching it.

Can you Unhack a phone? ›

Fix a hacked Android phone with a factory reset

A factory reset is a simple procedure that completely cleans your phone's internal storage. A factory reset deletes not only your photos, videos, messages, and other personal data, but also wipes out malware that lets hackers in.

How do I block my phone from being tracked? ›

How to Prevent Cell Phones From Being Tracked
  1. Turn off the cellular and Wi-Fi radios on your phone. The easiest way to accomplish this task is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature. ...
  2. Disable your GPS radio. ...
  3. Shut the phone down completely and remove the battery.

What to dial to see if your phone is being monitored? ›

*#21# This simple code let you find out whether your calls, messages, and other data are being diverted. The status of the different types of diversions that are taking place along with the number the information is being transferred to will be displayed on your phone's screen.

How good is iPhone security? ›

While iOS may be considered more secure, it's not impossible for cybercriminals to hit iPhones or iPads with malicious software. Because of this, the owners of both Android and iOS devices need to be aware of possible malware and viruses, and be careful when downloading apps from third-party app stores.

Does my iPhone need virus protection? ›

Do Macs and iPhones Need Antivirus? Since both iPads and iPhones use the iOS operating system, neither type of device needs antivirus software. However, Macs use a different operating system, macOS, so yes, you do need antivirus software for Macs.

What iPhone settings should I turn off? ›

Tip-2. Disable Default System Services
  • Go to Settings.
  • Click on Privacy.
  • Location Services.
  • System Services.
  • Disable below services. Compass Calibration. Device Management. Location-Based Alerts. Location-Based Suggestions. Motion Calibration & Distance. Setting Time Zone. Share My Location. Sharing.framework.
15 Aug 2022

Which phone is the most secure? ›

Top 10 Most Secure Phones
  • #1 Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Secure Phone.
  • #2 Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Secure Phone.
  • #3 Google Pixel 5 Secure Phone.
  • #4 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Secure Phone.
  • #5 Apple iPhone SE Secure Phone.
  • #6 Silent Circle Blackphone 2 Secure Phone.
  • #7 Sirin Labs Finney U1 Secure Phone.
9 Sept 2022

Does Apple look at your pictures? ›

Because Apple only scans photos uploaded to iCloud, you can choose to opt out of the new feature by disabling iCloud storage for your photos. Follow these steps to disable iCloud Photos: Open your iPhone or iPad and go to Settings. Scroll down to Photos.

What is the iPhone security issue? ›

Apple's explanation of the vulnerability means a hacker could get "full admin access" to the device. That would allow intruders to impersonate the device's owner and subsequently run any software in their name, said Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security.

Can I scan my iPhone for malware? ›

Due to security restrictions on iOS, it is not possible for any app to scan the system or other apps for malware. Apps are not allowed those kinds of permissions, and for that reason, antivirus software on iOS is not possible.

Can someone hack my iPhone through a text message? ›

Zero-Click Exploit

Experts say that just receiving an iMessage from a hacker using this exploit can be enough to leave users' personal data exposed. "It's like being robbed by a ghost," Hubbard wrote.

Can my iPhone be hacked through WIFI? ›

Unfortunately yes, your phone can be hacked via Wi-Fi. Hackers know how to hack into your phone (especially over public Wi-Fi networks) like any other physical device, regardless of whether you're using an iPhone or an Android phone.

What phones get hacked the most? ›

You are 192 times more at risk to get hacked if you have THIS phone
Most hacked phone brands (US)Total search volume
iPhone48,010
Samsung3,100
LG670
Sony320
2 more rows
11 Dec 2019

Are iPhones secure for banking? ›

Is Mobile Banking Safe on iPhone? Banking apps on iOS tend to be secure thanks to the rigorous standards of the App Store. The most vulnerable iOS systems are those that have been jailbroken.

Why are so many people switching to iPhone? ›

Apparently, 25 percent of US-based Android users are considering defecting to iOS and the reason behind the potential switch for 49 percent of them is that the iPhone is perceived to be more secure.

Is Safari safer than chrome on iPhone? ›

Is Safari Safer Than Google Chrome? Safari and Chrome are both secure, and Safari actually uses Google's Safe Browsing database. They are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to privacy and security, but if you're concerned about your online privacy, we'd advise using a VPN.

Has Apple been hacked 2022? ›

On September 12, 2022, Apple released a set of security updates that fixed newly-identified zero day vulnerabilities in their devices. Apple acknowledged reports that these vulnerabilities may have been exploited by hackers, but did not go into greater detail.

Does resetting iPhone remove spyware? ›

A lot of people think that performing a factory reset will remove the spyware from their iPhone. This is not correct. While factory reset does remove all your data including the spyware app(s) from the device, there is still a possibility that the spyware will be installed again.

How do I clear a virus from my iPhone? ›

Tips: How to Detect and Remove a Virus From an iPhone

Delete suspicious apps: Get rid of any apps showing suspicious behavior or any application you don't remember downloading. Clear website data and browser history: Some malware can live in local storage. Restart your phone: Malware may spread with your phone on.

Does updating iPhone remove malware? ›

Will the upgrade remove that malware ? There are no known malware for a non jailbroken phone. Upgrading IOS doesn't remove anything just updates your IOS.

What is the first thing you do when you get hacked? ›

Step 1: Change your passwords

This is important because hackers are looking for any point of entry into a larger network, and may gain access through a weak password. On accounts or devices that contain sensitive information, make sure your password is strong, unique—and not easily guessable.

What happens if you get a pop up saying your phone has been hacked? ›

A common scam circulating among both Android and iOS users is the fake virus alert, a pop-up window that tells the user their device is infected.

Should I change my number if my phone is hacked? ›

If you've experienced identity theft, you should probably change your phone number. It's a massive inconvenience, but the pros will outweigh the cons. Let's understand why. Most people upgrade their smartphone every two years — especially if they're on a contract plan.

How do you know if your iPhone has been hacked 2022? ›

The easiest way to tell if your iPhone has been hacked is by running a full device scan with top-tier antivirus security software. This will check your iPhone for any suspicious apps or activity and alert you to any unusual behaviors that may have gone unnoticed.

How do I know if my iPhone is being hacked? ›

Things like strange screen activity that occurs when you aren't using the phone, extremely slow startup or shutdown times, apps that suddenly shut down or a sudden spike in data usage can be indications of a compromised device.

Can hackers see you through your phone camera? ›

The short answer: Yes. Webcams and phone cameras can be hacked, giving bad actors complete control over how they function. As a result, hackers can use a device's camera to both spy on individuals and search for personal information.

Can someone watch you through your phone camera? ›

Plenty of spy and stalkerware exists that could compromise your device, and anyone with the right software and expertise could realistically use your phone's camera to spy on you. On top of that, popular app developers aren't immune to accusations of watching you through your phone's camera.

Can someone hack my phone by texting me? ›

Android phones can get infected by merely receiving a picture via text message, according to research published Monday. This is likely the biggest smartphone flaw ever discovered.

Can iPhones be hacked through safari? ›

As per the blog, the latest Safari's Version 15 has a bug, which gets activated while implementing the IndexedDB API. This bug allows the hackers to track and steal users' information and then use them as they like.

Can an iPhone be hacked by visiting a website? ›

Just like on your computer, your iPhone can be hacked by clicking on a suspicious website or link. If a website looks or feels "off" check the logos, the spelling, or the URL.

How do u reset ur iPhone? ›

Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset.

Can iPhones get viruses? ›

Fortunately for Apple fans, iPhone viruses are extremely rare, but not unheard of. While generally secure, one of the ways iPhones may become vulnerable to viruses is when they are 'jailbroken'.

How do I keep my iPhone secure? ›

We took a look at the new iOS and compiled some tips and tricks to help secure your device, your data, and your password usage.
  1. Turn on USB Restricted Mode. ...
  2. Make sure automatic iOS updates are turned on. ...
  3. Enable Find My iPhone. ...
  4. Disable lock screen options. ...
  5. Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi. ...
  6. Use additional encryption when backing up.

How can I tell if iPhone has virus? ›

The best way to know if your iPhone has a virus is to check for the following signs: unfamiliar or crashing apps, lots of Safari pop-ups, unusual charges or data usage, a rapidly draining battery, or a consistently hot phone.

How can I check my iPhone for viruses? ›

How to Check Your iPhone for a Virus or Malware
  1. Look for Unfamiliar Apps. ...
  2. Check if Your Device Is Jailbroken. ...
  3. Find Out if You Have Any Large Bills. ...
  4. Look at Your Storage Space. ...
  5. Restart Your iPhone. ...
  6. Delete Unusual Apps. ...
  7. Clear Your History. ...
  8. Use Security Software.
3 Mar 2022

Can my iPhone be hacked through WIFI? ›

Unfortunately yes, your phone can be hacked via Wi-Fi. Hackers know how to hack into your phone (especially over public Wi-Fi networks) like any other physical device, regardless of whether you're using an iPhone or an Android phone.

Can someone hack my iPhone and watch me? ›

Neither the iPhone, nor its camera has any known vulnerability that would allow it to be remotely hacked and used. If you read the document you linked to, you'll see how remotely hacking the camera on an iPhone is virtually impossible.

Can I scan my iPhone for malware? ›

Due to security restrictions on iOS, it is not possible for any app to scan the system or other apps for malware. Apps are not allowed those kinds of permissions, and for that reason, antivirus software on iOS is not possible.

Does resetting an iPhone delete Icloud? ›

When you tap Erase All Content and Settings, it completely erases your device, including any credit or debit cards you added for Apple Pay and any photos, contacts, music, or apps. It will also turn off iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, Game Center, and other services.

Does a factory reset delete everything? ›

A factory data reset erases your data from the phone. While data stored in your Google Account can be restored, all apps and their data will be uninstalled. To be ready to restore your data, make sure that it's in your Google Account. Learn how to back up your data.

What is iPhone hard reset? ›

If iPhone isn't responding, and you can't turn it off then on, try forcing it to restart. Press and quickly release the volume up button. Press and quickly release the volume down button. Press and hold the side button. When the Apple logo appears, release the side button.

How can you tell if an iPhone has been opened? ›

How to Check if iPhone is New, Refurbished or Demo - YouTube

Can your iPhone be hacked by opening a text? ›

Zero-Click Exploit

Experts say that just receiving an iMessage from a hacker using this exploit can be enough to leave users' personal data exposed. "It's like being robbed by a ghost," Hubbard wrote.

Does resetting your phone get rid of viruses? ›

On an Android device, a factory reset will generally remove a virus. The Android operating system uses an app on its recovery partition during a hard reset to restore factory settings. Malicious apps on mobile devices are less prevalent than desktop systems where antivirus software is crucial.

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