If you have an Apple acolyte in your life, you’ve probably heard the popular, and incorrect, refrain that “Macs Don’t Get Viruses.”
Back in the 80s’, windows-based personal computers came on the market a few years before Apple computers, making PCs an easier target for cybercriminals. Over the years, though, the ubiquity of Mac computers has made them more attractive to hackers. According to a study from the software company Malwarebytes, the average number of malware threats detected on Macs in 2019 was nearly twice the number detected on PCs.
In other words, the notion that Apple products are impenetrable to hackers has been thoroughly debunked. And that includes the iPhone.
Our smartphones—Apple, Android, or otherwise—are more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats than most people think. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
What’s the threat?
First things first: “Malware” and “virus” are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but there are important distinctions.
Malware is the term for any harmful software that can infect a computer or smartphone. A virus, on the other hand, is a form of malware designed to spread across programs like Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Word — and, eventually, your entire device. Both threats are designed for a variety of purposes, from stealing your identity to ruining your computer (and your day).
“Viruses need to replicate themselves to spread,” says Kristen Bolig, founder of the online security resource SecurityNerd.
Apple’s operating system, iOS, makes it tough for viruses to take over a phone since each app lives in its own little ecosystem and doesn’t usually communicate with other apps, she says. (Same goes for Android’s operating system). Sometimes, apps like Facebook and Instagram will ask for your permission to communicate. Bolig says it’s up to you to decide how much information you want to share, but the more “cross-app communication” you sign up for, the more risk you’re putting your data.
“Private data can be intercepted by a hacker or third party,” she says. “The best thing you can do to protect your phone…