Short on time? Here’s the best iOS security app to protect your iPhone from hacks in 2023
- 🥇Norton Mobile Security — Intuitive iOS security app with anti-phishing protection, a secure VPN, spam text filtering, parental controls, and more.
iOS devices (like iPhones and iPads) have some of the best security protections of any device in 2023, but you can still get hacked while using them.
iOS has some really impressive built-in protections — it can only run authorized apps from Apple’s App Store, it uses sandboxing which prevents any apps from making changes to your operating system, and it notifies you about all of the privacy permissions that you’ve granted to your apps.
But there are still a ton of risks facing iPhone users. Downloading malware on a jailbroken device isn’t the only way to get hacked on iOS. Even users with fully secured and updated iPhones can fall prey to phishing attacks, unsafe Wi-Fi networks, deceptive configuration profiles, sketchy apps, and more.
The best way to keep your data safe while using an iPhone is to download a good security app like Norton, which can block phishing sites, flag unsafe Wi-Fi networks, and notify you if your information is leaked to the dark web. There are also many simple things you can do yourself to keep your iPhone, your apps, and your browsing as secure as possible.
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How Is It Possible to Hack an iPhone?
iPhones can’t be hacked by malware files like trojans, ransomware, and rootkits — their operating systems are severely limited, so you can only download tested apps from the Apple App Store, and even then, those apps can’t make any changes to your operating system.
This makes iOS a really secure operating system, but it’s still possible for hackers to invade your device and access your data on iOS. Here’s how:
Jailbreaking is the process of altering iOS to allow third-party apps and even different operating systems to run on your iPhone.
This process is extremely risky for 3 reasons:
- It prevents you from updating iOS (iOS updates contain important security patches).
- It allows you to download dangerous third-party apps which can be malware.
- Many jailbreaking kits are actually malware.
If you want a mobile device that runs third-party apps, just get an Android. Jailbreaking your iOS device isn’t worth it.
Phishing & Smishing
Phishing sites are imitations of real sites which are designed to trick users into giving away their login credentials and personal information.
Phishing links are sent with deceptive emails, text messages, and pop-ups that contain urgent and deceptive language to trick users into giving their information away (phishing attacks frequently imitate banks, delivery services, social media sites, government agencies, and much more).
Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks can be used to intercept your browsing data, steal your login credentials, spy on your device, or alter your communications before your data gets to its intended recipient.
Just like phishing attacks, Wi-Fi hacks occur after your data leaves your device, so they can’t be prevented by iOS’s built-in protections.
Apple’s App Store is rigorously protected by Apple’s security team, but malicious apps can still sneak through Apple’s censors.
Many apps will ask for permission to access as much of your data as possible for the purpose of harvesting your information — just like spyware on Windows and macOS.
You also need to watch out for fleeceware apps, which provide basic functions while charging an exorbitant price. Usually fleeceware apps lure users in with free trials, social media marketing, and deceptive language, and then begin charging expensive monthly or even weekly subscription costs.
Configuration Profiles/Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Configuration profiles (also called MDM profiles) change specific security, app usage, and network settings in iOS — they’re usually given to employees on company-owned devices, but they can be used for malicious purposes, too.
If a hacker convinces you to download and run a malicious configuration profile on your device, they can access your data, re-route all of your web traffic to a compromised VPN server, change your privacy settings, or lock you out of your device.
Zero-day attacks target software and OS vulnerabilities in order to give hackers access to user devices.
They’re called zero-days because developers aren’t aware of the vulnerabilities in their software — they have had zero-days to fix them. Zero-day attacks are extremely rare, and they are almost exclusively deployed in high-profile attacks between hackers, intelligence agencies, governments, and major corporations.
How to Fix a Hacked iPhone
If you think you’ve been hacked, you should follow all these steps (except the final step — only reset your iPhone if you absolutely have to).
1. Install an iOS Security App
A good iOS security app like Norton can protect you from unsafe websites, block access to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, filter out smishing texts, and more.
While most iOS security apps don’t scan for malware, the best ones will scan your device for security issues, such as outdated software, and prompt you to fix these issues to prevent cyberattacks.
I recommend 3 apps with extra features like secure VPNs and password managers, which can further protect your device and data from hacks.
2. Remove Any Configuration Profiles
Configuration files enable apps, like VPNs, to make important changes to your device. In most cases, configuration files are legitimate.
However, malicious or buggy apps could convince a user to install configuration files which enable hackers to control the user’s device and steal data.
To remove configuration files, go to your iPhone’s Settings app. Select General, then VPN & Device Management. Any installed configuration profiles will be listed below. Tap Remove Profile to remove them from your device.
3. Check Your App Privacy Settings & Your Subscriptions
First, you should look for apps that have permissions you don’t want them to have. For example, gaming apps that have full access to your location data.
On iOS 15.2 and later, go to Settings, tap on Privacy, and select App Privacy Report.
On earlier iOS versions, tap Settings > Privacy — this will list out all of the different permissions that your apps can access.
Next, look at your current subscriptions to apps that are charging unnecessarily expensive subscription prices (these apps are known as “fleeceware”).
Go to Settings and select your Apple ID. Tap Subscriptions and this will show you a list of all your active and expired subscriptions. Look for app subscriptions that charge a lot of money and unsubscribe unless you need them.
4. Uninstall Unsafe or Suspicious Apps
First, identify any apps on your device that you do not recognise. If you don’t recognise them, there’s a chance they could be malicious.
You can then uninstall apps on your iPhone by long-pressing an app in your Home screen and selecting the option for Remove App. On older iOS versions, a small “x” will appear on the top left of the app icon, and you should simply tap the x to uninstall the app.
5. Run a Data Breach Scan
Haveibeenpwned.com is a good free data breach scanner that can alert you if your email has been leaked in a data breach.
But many iOS security apps also have built-in breach monitors — Norton for iOS offers live dark web monitoring to give you live updates if your data is discovered in a dark web forum or private data breach.
6. Change Your Passwords
There may be a few reasons why you need to change your passwords.
If your passwords are short and too simple, old, or if you regularly reuse the same password, you must look at changing your password to more complex, newer, and unique passwords — password managers make it much easier to do this.
There are many good password managers for iOS, such as 1Password and Dashlane, which offer more advanced features compared to the iOS’ built-in Passwords feature.
7. Use 2-Factor Authentication (2FA)
2FA protects your logins by requiring a second piece of verification (along with your password) before you can log into an account. SMS codes, time-based one-time passcodes (TOTPs), biometric scans, and USB tokens are common 2FA tools.
Password managers like 1Password and Dashlane can help you set up and generate TOTP 2FA for compatible online accounts.
You can also enable 2FA for your Apple ID. First, select your Apple ID > Password & Security. Tap Turn On Two-Factor Authentication and enter your phone number. Apple will send TOTP codes to that number whenever you access your Apple ID from a new device.
8. Keep Your iPhone Updated
It’s important to keep your device updated as the latest updates include important security patches that help to prevent emerging threats, including exploit attacks.
Turning on automatic updates is the easiest way to keep your iPhone safe. You can schedule automatic updates to happen whenever is most convenient for you, such as at 2am, when you’re less likely to be using your phone.
On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Software Update, and select both Download iOS Updates and Install iOS Updates.
9. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPNs are essential privacy tools in 2023, which help to protect your data when connecting to unsecured networks (like public Wi-Fi hotspots).
If you connect your iOS device to an unsecured public Wi-FI hotspot, a VPN will stop hackers from being able to view your activity by encrypting your browsing data (so prying eyes cannot see what you are doing online).
There are some pretty good antivirus programs with bundled VPNs, but the best VPNs for iOS are all standalone apps like ExpressVPN.
10. Reset Your iPhone
First, make sure you have your contacts and other important information backed up to iCloud.
Select your Apple ID, then iCloud, and toggle iCloud Backup (or you can choose to go through the app list and only toggle the apps whose data you want to save).
Next, go to Settings > General, and select Transfer or Reset iPhone. Select Reset, reset just your network and privacy settings, then see if your device is behaving normally again.
If you’re still having issues, simply select Erase All Content and Settings.
Best iOS Security Apps for Preventing Hacks in 2023
Quick summary of the best iOS security apps in 2023:
- 🥇1. Norton Mobile Security — Best overall iOS security app in 2023.
- 🥈2. TotalAV Mobile Security — Most intuitive iOS security app.
- 🥉3. Avira Mobile Security for iOS — Best free plan with good privacy protections.
🥇1. Norton — Best iOS Security App in 2023
Norton Mobile Security is not only easy to use, but it also provides the best set of security features of any iPhone security app in 2023.
Norton’s app for iOS comes with:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Scam SMS message filtering.
- Wi-Fi scanner.
- Password manager (separate app).
- Identity theft protections (US only).
- And more…
Norton’s anti-phishing and SMS protections are really good — in my testing, Norton was able to identify and block 100% of phishing sites and smishing texts. I also really like Norton’s dark web monitoring tool, which provides live notifications if your logins or personally identifying information is breached.
Norton’s password manager is actually one of my favorite antivirus-bundled password managers in 2023, providing convenient auto-filling, password vault auditing, and unlimited password storage across all devices.
Norton Mobile Security is a great option if you only need to protect a single iPhone — it’s only $14.99 / year, and it provides all of Norton’s mobile protections for iOS.
However, if you also have Windows, Android, macOS, or other iOS devices, Norton 360 Deluxe provides 100% malware detection and a ton of excellent features for up to 5 devices for just $24.99 / year. Norton’s multi-device plans all come with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Norton review here >
🥈2. TotalAV — Most Intuitive iOS Security App
TotalAV Mobile Security provides an excellent suite of internet security tools in an intuitive user interface. TotalAV’s dark color scheme is sleek and attractive — you can access all of its features and adjust your settings with just a couple of taps.
I was really impressed with TotalAV’s anti-phishing tool, which blocked unsafe sites and phishing sites more effectively than Safari or Chrome (although I would like to see TotalAV include an SMS smishing filter like Norton does).
TotalAV’s VPN is also really good, providing fast and secure connections to dozens of servers around the globe. For users looking to protect their data from web trackers and stay secure on public Wi-Fi, TotalAV’s VPN is my favorite antivirus-bundled VPN in 2023, although it’s not quite as good as standalone VPNs like ExpressVPN.
TotalAV also offers device tracking and data breach monitoring tools — its device tracking is way easier to use than Apple’s built-in Find My tool, but I wish its breach monitor provided live assistance and dark web monitoring like Norton does.
TotalAV Mobile Security comes bundled with TotalAV’s multi-device plans (which cover up to 6 Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices) for only $19.00 / year, which is cheaper than some standalone iOS security apps. TotalAV backs purchases with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full TotalAV review here >
🥉3. Avira — Best Free Plan With Helpful Privacy Protections
Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS is an excellent free internet security app, offering privacy protections, a limited VPN, and more. Its Privacy Manager is a downloadable configuration profile that can prevent Siri from sharing any of your information to Apple’s servers.
Avira offers several more iOS security tools, including many features that are only offered with the paid Mobile Security Pro plan:
- VPN (100 MB daily data, unlimited with Pro).
- Photo clean-up.
- Spam call blocker.
- Breach monitoring (Pro only).
- Anti-phishing (Pro only).
- Password manager.
Avira’s spam call blocker and anti-theft protections are great free tools. But paid users get Avira’s anti-phishing and breach monitoring tools, which are some of the best around (although its breach monitoring isn’t as good as Norton’s). In addition, Avira’s password manager made it onto our list of the best password managers in 2023.
Upgrade to Avira Prime plan gets you all of Avira’s features on up to 5 devices for just $59.99 / year. Avira’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Avira review here >
Comparison of the Best iOS Security Apps in 2023
|iOS Security App||Anti-Phishing||Wi-Fi Security Monitor||VPN||Password Manager||Data Breach Monitoring||Stand-Out Feature|
|🥇1. Norton||✅ (plus scam SMS filtering)||✅||✅||✅ (separate app)||✅ (plus live dark web monitoring)||Live dark web monitoring|
|🥈2. TotalAV||✅||❌||✅||❌||✅||Anti-theft device location tracking|
|🥉3. Avira||✅ (plus spam call blocker)||❌||✅||✅ (separate app)||✅||Siri voice command data privatization|
How to Choose the Best iOS Security App
- Web security. Look for iOS apps that can block phishing sites, scam texts, and other unsafe links and websites. Safari and other browsers have decent built-in security tools, but apps like Norton and TotalAV will increase your online security.
- Privacy features. Even though Apple’s new app privacy report can help you check on your app privacy and permission settings, a good iOS security app can add more protections for your data. Features like secure VPNs and data breach monitors (which all 3 of the apps in my list offer) as well as Avira’s Privacy Monitor feature can all increase your data privacy.
- Ease of use. Look for apps that offer their features in a single interface, have helpful tutorials, and make it easy to access their different tools and settings. I think TotalAV might be the most intuitive iOS security app on this list.
- Value. While there aren’t many good free iOS security apps (Avira’s is decent), you can get a good security app for iOS for a really good value. Compare app prices with the number of features they offer to make sure you’re getting a good value for your money and make sure whatever app you purchase provides a money-back guarantee. For example, Norton offers a 60-day money-back guarantee.
iPhones & NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware
NSO Group’s Pegasus iOS spyware tool has been in the news a lot recently, following allegations that it was used to spy on journalists, lawyers, and activists around the world.
Pegasus is developed by the Israel-based NSO Group to supposedly help anti-terrorism units and intelligence agencies spy on violent criminals.
It exploits security vulnerabilities in iOS (which have since been patched in the latest iOS updates) to give outside agents access to all of the data in your phone — including encrypted messaging apps. While this nightmarish technology has been used by corrupt regimes to surveil activists and journalists, it’s highly unlikely that your device will be targeted by Pegasus.
Because it depends on zero-day exploits to infect user devices, Pegasus can’t be deployed on a wide scale without Apple’s devs getting ahold of it and closing the software vulnerabilities that it attacks.
So, unless you’re an environmental activist standing up to narcotraficantes in Mexico, a journalist reporting on human rights abuses in the UAE, or a lawyer suing the government of Jordan for torture, you don’t need to worry about Pegasus or other sophisticated zero-day attacks targeting your device.
Can an iPhone Be Hacked? — Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my iPhone has been hacked?
If your iPhone display has changed, you have new apps on your device, or your device is running really slowly or overheating, then your device may have been hacked. The only way to install malware directly onto an iPhone is by jailbreaking it — if somebody else has access to your iPhone, they could have jailbroken your device and changed your operating system. If you think your device has been jailbroken, take it to a professional technician.
Most iPhone hacks are things like phishing attacks, data breaches, fleeceware apps, or unsafe Wi-Fi hacks. It can be hard to tell if your information has been compromised — I’ve given instructions above with some simple methods to keep your iPhone safe. Plus, iOS security apps like Norton can protect you from the vast majority of iOS attacks in 2023.
What do I do if my iPhone has been hacked?
If your iPhone has been jailbroken and had malware installed on it, you should factory reset it and restore your original iOS installation. But if you’ve simply installed some suspicious apps or downloaded an unsafe configuration profile, you can fix your device really easily. Uninstalling apps and configuration profiles only takes a few taps.
However, if you think hackers have gotten access to your login credentials, you’ll want to follow my step-by-step instructions above to secure your accounts. You should always be running 2-factor authentication on as many accounts as possible (which is much easier with a secure password manager), and you should protect yourself against future attacks using a good iOS security app like Norton.
Are iPhones more secure than Android?
Yes — iPhones have a much more restricted operating system than Android, which prevents users from downloading third-party apps or accessing their system files. Android devices provide much greater flexibility, which can be really great for developers and users that like to customize their devices. But iOS is much harder to hack than Android (although iPhones are still vulnerable to a range of cyberattacks).
Which iPhone has the best security?
Any iPhone that has a fully updated version of iOS running is highly secure. iOS 15 is compatible with iPhones as far back as the 6s model — but even older models will still get occasional updates to their operating system, although with iOS 16 getting implemented, older iPhones will no longer be receiving regular security updates. I’ve given instructions for installing iOS updates above, and all of the best iOS security apps are compatible with a wide range of iPhones and iOS versions. Norton Mobile Security runs on iOS versions 13.0 and later, so iPhone 6s and beyond are compatible with it.