Apple devices have avoided iOS virus attacks because of the way apps and the App Store operate. All apps seeking App Store acceptance are subject to a rigorous vetting process designed to weed out malware. The App Store is the only place users can download apps (provided they haven’t jailbroken their devices), which also helps keep viruses out. Plus, every iOS app is sandboxed, which means that it operates independently from other applications on the device and can’t harm them.
iOS virus threats
The safety and security that users enjoy from apps and the App Store does not extend beyond Apple’s reach, however. The data and files that users import to and access on their devices are out of Apple’s control. Apps such as Dropbox and MobileMe allow users to import files to their devices, and users can download attachments from emails or other points of entry over which Apple does not have control. These files may be infected with malware. The infection can’t manifest on the iOS device itself, but if the device is connected to a corporate network, the iPad or iPhone malware can attack other connected computers.
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Although iOS devices connected to a corporate network should ideally have antivirus protection to keep other devices safe, the only available app to protect against an iOS virus, Intego VirusBarrier, isn’t a viable option for IT. The major drawback of Intego VirusBarrier is that users can’t set the app to scan their device for iPad and iPhone malware automatically, which means that it’s the user’s responsibility to open the app and manually scan for any iOS virus that may be on his or her device.
Putting this kind of personal responsibility on users doesn’t always work. For the sake of good corporate security, organizations should make sure that all computers connecting to the corporate network have antivirus programs running. That is the best way to protect against iPad or iPhone malware that may come into the enterprise from a device with an iOS virus.
This was first published in February 2012