Short on time? Here’s the best free iOS antivirus in 2021:
- 🥇 Avira Mobile Security: Includes a privacy monitor, anti-theft protection, a limited VPN, a call blocker, and a performance optimizer. Get the free download here.
Here’s something most antivirus companies won’t tell you — virus scanning isn’t actually possible on iOS. This is because iPhones and iPads use an advanced security mechanism called “sandboxing”, which prevents apps from making changes to any other apps, files, or processes on your system. So basically viruses can’t infect iOS devices, because viruses can’t do anything on an iOS device.
So when most people say “antivirus for iOS”, they mean “internet security for iOS” — covering a wide range of features that keep iPhones and iPads safe. Because iOS devices aren’t naturally protected against a wide range of other security threats, including:
- Phishing links.
- Unsafe public Wi-Fi networks.
- Data-stealing apps.
- Browser trackers.
- Device theft.
I spent dozens of hours digging through scam apps, useless free apps, and fake security apps on the App Store, looking for products that could provide decent security coverage for all iOS users. I was able to find 5 free security apps for iOS that provide solid cybersecurity protection with no hidden fees or tricky trial periods.
However, there isn’t a single free security app for iOS that includes all of the features for complete iOS protection — if you understand that your data and your privacy are worth more than a few dollars per month, you should look at Norton’s fantastic iOS app.
Quick summary of the best free iOS antivirus apps for 2021:
- 1.🥇 Avira Mobile Security — Best free iOS app in 2021.
- 2.🥈 TotalAV Mobile Security — Excellent range of free features (includes a secure browser, breach scanner & device locator).
- 3.🥉 McAfee Mobile Security — Advanced anti-theft protection with a good Wi-Fi scanner.
- 4. Kaspersky Security Cloud — Strong (but limited) VPN and data breach scanning.
- 5. Lookout Personal for iOS — Email breach scanning, device locator + alarm, and app update scanner.
- Bonus. Traced — Free network and web browser protections.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Antiviruses for iOS.
How I Ranked the Best Free iOS Antivirus Apps:
No free security app is going to provide the kind of protection that I consider essential for an iOS device — but some of the apps on this list get pretty close. Here’s what I looked for in all of the apps that made it to my top 5 free apps for iOS:
- 100% free. All of the apps I recommend offer long-term functionality at zero cost, not just free trials. However, all of these apps do offer premium versions that are much better — and most of them are pretty cheap (and many are available for a free trial).
- Data privacy. There are a lot of free apps that exist solely to log and sell user data — there aren’t that many ways to make money with free products! However, all of the free apps on this list protect user data, and some of them even include additional tools that ensure your sensitive data doesn’t get compromised.
- Ease of use. Apple already provides some great security features for iOS, but a lot of them are really hard to access. If you’ve ever tried to use the “Find my iPhone” web tool from Apple, you know it can be a real hassle. The tools and apps on this list provide increased security protections with convenient, well-designed user interfaces.
- Efficiency. Many antivirus apps are buggy or slow down your iOS device. I analyzed my iPhone and iPad’s performance and battery life before and after installing each app, making sure that none of the apps slow down devices or drain batteries.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- Norton. I don’t want to mislead you: Norton’s iOS app is great, but it isn’t free. It offers Wi-Fi security protection, web protection, a VPN, and dark web monitoring. Still, if you’re looking for guaranteed protection, it’s the best iOS antivirus app there is.
- Bitdefender. Bitdefender’s paid mobile app is decent, providing good web protection, data breach scanning, and a limited VPN. However, Bitdefender doesn’t offer a free version of its iOS app.
- Avast/AVG. Avast is still one of the first security apps that pops up on the App Store, but it won’t be getting a recommendation from SafetyDetectives anytime soon. Avast owns AVG, and some disturbing reports came out about Avast/AVG selling user data to huge corporations. You can read more about it here.
1.🥇 Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS — Best Free Antivirus App for iOS in 2021
Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS provides more free features than any other free iOS app — and all of its features are useful, intuitive, and provide an additional layer of protection for iPhones and iPads.
One of the things I like most about Avira’s iOS app is the Privacy Manager feature, which is a downloadable iOS profile that prevents Siri from sharing your data with Apple — once installed, this profile prevents Siri from logging commands on Apple’s servers, which is great if you’re trying to minimize the amount of personal data that big businesses can collect from you.
Avira Mobile Security also offers a ton of additional security features, including:
- VPN (100 MB daily limit).
- Anti-theft protection.
- Network scanner.
- Device analyzer.
- Photo storage manager.
- Contacts backup.
I’m a big fan of Avira’s VPN, which provides fast encrypted internet access with a no-logs guarantee — so you know Avira isn’t profiting off of your browsing history. However, the VPN has a daily limit of 100 MB and it only lets you connect to one server location. Upgrading to Avira Phantom VPN Pro gets you unlimited data and a variety of global server locations.
Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS is a great free app, but most users will want to upgrade to Avira’s paid plans. You can subscribe to Avira Security Pro for iOS (adds anti-phishing, spam call blocking, and data breach monitoring) and Prime Mobile (adds a VPN with no limitations and a premium password manager). There’s also the Avira Prime package (currently off), which includes all of Avira’s features and coverage for up to 5 devices, including iOS, macOS, Windows, and Android devices.
Avira’s wide range of features make it the best free antivirus app for iPhones and iPads. Its Privacy Monitor feature will allow you to use Siri without having your interactions logged by Apple, and its anti-theft tools, call blocker, and VPN (limited to 100 MB/day) are all excellent. However, if you’re looking for web protections, a VPN with no limitations, and a secure password manager, you’ll need to upgrade to Avira Prime Mobile, which is available for a monthly subscription or as part of the larger Avira Prime antivirus package.
2.🥈 TotalAV Mobile Security — Good Range of Free Features for iOS
TotalAV Mobile Security provides most of its features to free users, including a secure web browser and an on-demand data breach scanner. TotalAV’s secure browser uses DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, to ensure that users can access the web without being tracked or targeted by advertisers (DuckDuckGo is one of our top choices for the most secure web browser in 2021).
TotalAV also has a breach scanning feature that scans breach databases for compromised emails — I was relieved to see that my test Gmail account is still secure, but I wasn’t surprised to discover that my Hotmail account from 2005 has been a part of numerous data breaches in the last several years.
TotalAV also provides a few more free features, including:
- Device locator.
- Photo cleanup.
- Battery manager.
- System security.
TotalAV’s device locator is a basic anti-theft tool that lets you track your iPhone if it gets lost — it’s not as good as McAfee’s anti-theft tools, but it gets the job done. I also really like TotalAV’s photo cleanup feature that removes duplicate photos and screenshots from your device, and I appreciate that TotalAV’s free iOS app also includes system security that alerts you to iOS updates and prevents hackers from exploiting system vulnerabilities.
Upgrading to TotalAV Mobile Security Premium gets you anti-phishing protection and a VPN with no limitations — during my tests TotalAV’s VPN provided fast, reliable connections to a variety of servers worldwide, and it was even able to unblock geo-restricted streaming content on Netflix. TotalAV Mobile Security Premium is also included with TotalAV’s antivirus packages, which cover up to 6 devices across all operating systems.
TotalAV Mobile Security provides a lot of free features, including a secure browser and a data breach scanner. TotalAV’s other free features are pretty good too, including a device locator, duplicate photo cleanup, and a battery manager. Upgrading to TotalAV Mobile Security Premium gets you anti-phishing protection and unlimited VPN usage. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of TotalAV’s premium plans.
3.🥉 McAfee Mobile Security for iOS — Best for iPhone Theft Protection
McAfee Mobile Security for iOS is a simple free app that offers excellent anti-theft protections. My favorite feature is the remote anti-theft alarm — simply log into McAfee’s online dashboard to trigger a very loud alarm that gradually gets louder and louder. Unlike Apple’s rather quiet built-in iOS alarm, McAfee’s alarm literally sounds like a haunted house scream — it’s very hard to ignore!
McAfee’s anti-theft protection also offers remote location tracking and data wiping, as well as the option to display an automated message. iOS’s built-in “Find my iPhone” feature isn’t nearly as easy to use as McAfee’s, which is easily accessed from McAfee’s online dashboard.
McAfee also offers:
- Wi-Fi scanner.
- Media vault.
- Contact backup.
- System security scan.
McAfee’s Wi-Fi scanner is pretty good — it’s an on-demand scanner that will notify you if you’re using an unsafe Wi-Fi network. However, the media vault and contact backup features aren’t very useful because iOS already offers the ability to create a PIN-protected “Secret Album” for your media, as well as automatic iCloud backup for your contacts.
McAfee’s paid iOS security app offers a lot of advanced protections — McAfee Mobile Security Standard also includes real-time anti-phishing protection, and McAfee Mobile Security Plus adds an excellent mobile VPN (McAfee’s VPN did rank near the top of our best antivirus with a VPN for 2021).
You can get McAfee’s paid mobile plans with an individual subscription or bundled with McAfee’s 2-year Total Protection subscriptions, which covers up to 10 devices, including iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows devices.
McAfee offers some useful security features, including an excellent remote anti-theft tool. Triggering McAfee’s alarm causes your iOS device to emit a very loud screaming sound, and its location tracking is much simpler than Apple’s “Find my iPhone” tool. If you’re looking for web protections like anti-phishing protection and a VPN, I recommend most users look into McAfee Mobile Security Standard or Plus — there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on both paid plans.
4. Kaspersky Security Cloud Free for iOS — Best Free VPN and Security Breach Scan
Kaspersky Security Cloud is a minimal but decent free iOS security app with a secure VPN. The included VPN provides 300 MB of daily data (better than Avira), and it includes a no-logs policy, which means that even Kaspersky isn’t tracking your browsing history.
Using Kaspersky’s VPN, I was also able to stream high-quality video without slowdown, but unfortunately Kaspersky’s free version doesn’t include the option to choose your server from its global network, so you’re stuck with automatically connecting to a local server. For that option, you’ll need to upgrade.
Kaspersky’s breach scanning is pretty much identical to TotalAV’s breach scanner — simply enter your email address, and Kaspersky will check your email against a massive database of breached logins.
Kaspersky also includes a free password manager app — the app provides convenient auto-filling, password generating, and 256-bit AES encryption for user logins, but the free version is limited to only 15 passwords, which isn’t very good.
Just like all of these products, the free version of Kaspersky’s iOS app is a pretty limited version of its premium plan. Premium users get unlimited VPN usage with access to a global network of servers, plus anti-phishing protection and unlimited password storage across desktop and mobile devices. Plus, Kaspersky offers excellent parental controls — it’s one of my favorite parental control apps on the market.
Kaspersky’s free iOS app is essentially a VPN with dark web monitoring and a little bit of password management — it’s a decent sample of Kaspersky’s full offering, and 300 MB of daily VPN access is pretty good as long as you aren’t streaming video or gaming. Upgrading to premium protection gets you unlimited VPN browsing, unlimited password storage, anti-phishing, and parental controls — there’s a free 30-day trial of Kaspersky Security Cloud Premium and Family offered in the free app.
5. Lookout Personal for iOS — Good Breach Monitoring and Anti-Theft Tools
Lookout Personal for iOS provides an app update scanner, basic data breach monitoring, and missing device location tools for free users. Lookout’s System Advisor tool will give you notifications if your system is due for an update, which is only useful if you’re really good at ignoring iOS’s persistent update notifications.
However, Lookout’s Locate tools are pretty good — if you lose your device, you can go to the website and track your device on a map, issue a remote alarm, or even display a message on your screen to help good samaritans return your device to you. Lookout will even save the last location of your phone before its battery dies — which is a super helpful feature!
Lookout’s last free feature is an on-demand data breach scanner. Simply enter your email and Lookout will let you know if any of your logins have been compromised in a data breach.
Lookout’s free iOS protection is decent, but the paid app is much better. Lookout Premium includes anti-phishing protection, a Wi-Fi network scanner, and real-time data breach updates. Lookout also offers identity theft protections for Premium Plus users.
Lookout Personal for iOS provides decent lost phone protections, data breach scanning, and iOS update notifications. I especially like the remote alarm feature that can deter thieves and help detect lost iOS devices. However, I really think that users that enjoy Lookout’s iOS security tools should opt for the premium upgrade, which includes anti-phishing protection, Wi-Fi scanning, data breach reports, and identity theft tools.
Bonus: Traced — Free Web Browser & Network Protections for iOS Users
Traced is a free and lightweight iOS app that provides good web and network protections without compromising user privacy. Traced doesn’t gather any user usage data, which most security apps do — even top-quality apps like McAfee compile scan data to help keep their threat databases up-to-date.
During my tests, I was really impressed with Traced’s network scanner — it has live intrusion detection, which can help protect users from ARP spoofing attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and exploit attacks. I also like that Traced provides live browser protection, which can integrate with Safari on your iOS device.
Traced doesn’t provide important features like an app scanner or anti-theft tools, but it’s not a bad option for users that just want a Wi-Fi network monitor and additional browser security. Plus, Traced is completely free.
Traced is a minimal but effective network monitor and browsing protection app for iOS that doesn’t collect any user data. Traced’s Wi-Fi scanner provides live intrusion detection, and the browser protections integrate with Safari to add increased security against phishing and exploit attacks. Traced doesn’t provide an app scanner or anti-theft tools, but it can be a good addition to your existing antivirus app.
Antiviruses for iOS — Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need an antivirus for my iPhone?
Apple is right when it says you don’t need an antivirus for your iOS device. And it’s also completely wrong. “Antivirus” is the wrong word to use because these apps aren’t really detecting viruses. But Apple’s built-in security measures can’t protect us from our own browsing habits. Phishing is a huge problem, theft is a huge problem, and browsing on unsecured networks is a huge problem.
And anyone who’s ever tried to use Apple’s clunky “Find My iPhone” features knows that you need a faster, louder, and more comprehensive option to find a lost device and deter thieves.
There’s really no reason not to install an antivirus app like Avira, TotalAV or McAfee on your iPhone. Not only are our iPhones valuable assets, they also contain some of our most sensitive personal information.
Will iPhone antivirus apps work on my iPad?
In most cases, yes. iOS antivirus apps, like Avira, will work for most iOS devices, including iPads. But still, you should check with each product to make sure that the app offers the protection you want. There may be certain features that will only work on iPhones.
What kind of antivirus features do I need to stay protected?
Again, “antivirus” is a weird word for iOS security apps. While the threat of a traditional virus is low, there are all sorts of other threats that can compromise your cybersecurity.
Norton 360 offers the best range of security features, including phishing protection, data breach alerts, anti-theft tools, spam text and call protection, and more. Norton 360 isn’t free, but downloading a premium iOS security app is the only way to get all of the security features you need for your iOS device.
Users that are looking for a free security app should look into Avira’s free app for iOS. It has a good variety of features, but because of its limited VPN and lack of anti-phishing protections, I recommend most users upgrade to Avira Prime Mobile.