You may have purchased your iPad, as opposed to a Windows tablet or a Kindle, specifically because of its resistance to viruses. Or, at least that’s what they told you in the Apple Store, but is it the truth? Put on your detective hat because today, we’re going on an investigation.
Do iPads Need Antivirus?
The Apple employee you probably talked to was right: iPads do not need antivirus software if its only function is to detect malware and viruses. The iPadOS — and the iOS operating software it was based on — is built in such a way that makes it resistant to viruses and malware. Apps are compartmentalized, so even malicious apps (if they manage to get through Apple’s rigorous app testing) can’t spread malware on your device.
That being said, realizing that Apple’s operating system is near-impenetrable, cybercriminals that use malware turn to social engineering and user error to steal personal information from iPad users. They use fake ads, phishing, and malicious websites. So even if your iPad is secure from malware, cybercriminals can still get to you.
Fortunately, antivirus software these days can protect you from those other threats. So to answer the question, you may not need antivirus software on your iPad to protect you from viruses, but you absolutely need antivirus software to protect you from other online threats.
Which Antivirus Software Protects iPads?
We’ve personally tested antivirus software from dozens of antivirus brands. We tested them on numerous devices, including iPads, and we found these brands have the best antivirus apps for iPad. That’s because they are easy to use and they have the ability to protect you from a wide variety of online dangers. Check out the brands below if you’re looking for the best protection for your iPad.
What Types Of Malware Should iPad Users Watch Out For?
If you jailbreak your iPad or clicked on a suspicious attachment, malware, or malicious code, can come through in the form of:
- Adware: Adware is a form of malware that creates targeted ads by tracking you online. We’ve all seen oddly specific ads about something we just searched for; adware is the fuel. If you think you have adware on your iPad, open up System Preferences, Safari (or the web browser you use), and then Clear History and Website Data. Your web history and cache will be cleared.
- Spyware: Another form of malware is spyware, which the user will have no knowledge of as it gathers and tracks data and activity. It may even disguise itself as legitimate software, what’s known in the digital security world as a Trojan horse. While spyware is rarely found on iOS devices, you could get it if you torrent, download files or click on attachments. If you think you have spyware on your iPad, we recommend contacting Apple support directly.
- Phishing: Like spyware, phishing can come through emails, email attachments and pop-ups. If you see something that you believe is fake, quit the browser, clear your cache and restart your iPad.1
Pro Tip: If you get an email from an unfamiliar sender, do not click on it or on any of its attachments, as these may be to do phishing websites designed to gather your login credentials.
Is My iPad Safe?
Given that you don’t jailbreak, your iPad is probably safe from viruses and malware, so the biggest risk you have is actually losing your device. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have a passcode, among other measures which we’ll get to shortly. But first, how can you tell if your iPad has been hacked?
Signs Your iPad Has Been Hacked
These are the red flags you need to look out for:
- You receive a message about ransomware or antivirus software that requires user action
- You find new sites bookmarked on your browser’s toolbars
- You get pop-ups randomly and frequently
- Your web searches are redirected elsewhere
- Your friends tell you that you keep sending them invitations on social media that you haven’t sent
- Software installs unexpectedly
- Money is missing from your accounts
- Your normal passwords are not working
- Your mouse moves on its own
- Your information was involved in a data breach.2
Even though iPads are one of the most secure types of devices when it comes to viruses and malware, it’s still important to keep these red flags in mind upon usage.
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. That being said, Apple does give Macs some built-in antivirus software, but it doesn’t block against adware nor PUPs, potentially unwanted programs. Here’s what’s built into Macs:
- XProtect: XProtect comes on all Macs and provides antivirus protection in the background.
- Sandbox mode: The Sandbox is where Macs quarantine apps that they believe are suspicious; it’s a virtual sandbox, obviously, that’s isolated from the rest of the device.
- Gatekeeper: Finally, Gatekeeper prevents untrusted software from running.
For basic antivirus protection, the above features are sufficient, but if you want protection against adware and PUPs, it makes sense to get antivirus software from a third party.
How To Keep Your iPad Secure
Although iPads are very secure by design, a few best practices can make them even more secure.
- Update software: Perform all software updates in a timely manner, as outdated software could have security vulnerabilities.
- Don’t jailbreak: Jailbreaking allows you to download apps from outside the App store, which is not a good thing, as they’re not verified as safe. While jailbreaking allows users more control over their iPads, it’s not worth the potential security risks of unverified apps.
- Turn on Find my iPad: In case you lose your iPad, make sure that no one else will be able to access it. Plus, this feature will help you find your iPad through GPS.
- Secure Apple ID: Your Apple ID should have a long, complicated and unique password.
- Use a Passcode: Make sure your iPad has a passcode, ideally as many numbers as it allows for.
- Turn on authentication: Turn on Face ID or Touch ID to make sure that, even if someone knows your passcode, they still can’t access your iPad.
- Secure lock screen: Have your iPad lock within a few seconds of inactivity; the shorter the time period, the more secure.
- Sign into accounts with Apple: Instead of signing into third party accounts with Facebook or Google, choose Apple if it’s available. Why? Because Apple doesn’t sell user data, so you won’t be tracked as you sign into various accounts.
- Turn off location and app data: If you’re not using an app, it shouldn’t be gathering any data about you. Even if you are using an app, it may not need all of the data it asks for, such as your location. Limit app permissions as much as possible to retain your privacy and security.
- Read privacy policies: The fine print under “Terms and Conditions” actually matters, so make sure to find out which iPad apps log your data and share it with third parties.
How Strong?: To see if your Apple ID password is sufficient, use our “how secure is my password” tool.
iPad Virus Scams
What do you do if you get a warning that there’s a virus on your iPad? Ignore it. If your iPad finds a virus, it will deal with it on its own without requiring any action from the user. Plus, it’s unlikely that your iPad will get a virus in the first place, so any warnings are most likely scams.4
The fact that iPads don’t need antivirus software is a huge feather in their cap. However, since some forms of malware can get through, you still want to adhere to best practices like creating a passcode. The best defense is a good offense, and simply by tinkering with your iPad’s settings, you can greatly reduce the risk of hacking or malware.
iPad Viruses: The Questions We Get The Most
There is no such thing as stupid questions, even if we’ve already answered them before.
Can Apple iPads get viruses?
Apple iPads cannot get viruses unless the user is jailbreaking, meaning is downloading apps from outside of the App Store. However, if you are using the iPad as intended and only downloading apps from the App store, it’s nearly impossible that iPads can get viruses.
Why do iPads not get viruses?
The reason why iPads do not get viruses is that every app in the App store is scanned for malicious code. Plus, each app is isolated from one another so viruses can’t spread to other systems, shutting them down completely.
Can iPads get hacked?
iPads can get hacked if someone obtains a user’s login credentials or if the device is lost or stolen. However, iPads are unlikely to get hacked due to viruses.
How can you tell if your iPad has a virus?
While it’s incredibly unlikely that your iPad has a virus, you can tell if it has a virus if your mouse moves without you touching the trackpad, you are getting a lot of pop-ups, your passwords stop working, etc.
Norton. (2021). Can iPads get viruses?
CSO. (2020). 15 signs you've been hacked—and how to fight back.
Apple. (2019) Sign in with Apple.
Reader's Digest. (2021). iPhone Virus Warning: Scam or Real?