The Fortress of iOS: Can iPhones Get Malware from Websites?

Justin Oyaro

By Justin Oyaro . 12 February 2024

Cybersecurity Expert

Miklos Zoltan

Fact-Checked this

In theory, yes, practically, it is rare for iPhones to get malware from websites unless they are jailbroken.

Jailbroken iPhones grant users escalated privileges that bypass iOS restrictions. However, jailbreaking weakens iOS security, and thus it makes the iPhone vulnerable to malware.

Continue reading to know why iPhones are not susceptible to malware.

Why Are iPhones Less Vulnerable to Malware from Websites

iOS uses a security model with controls that ensure apps and user data don’t compromise the system’s integrity.

This approach is known as sandboxing, in which apps cannot access or modify other apps’ data or even make unauthorized changes.

Additionally, access to system files is highly restricted, and Apple has ensured that system files are tamper-proof through hardware security.

When you access a malicious website, malware from the website will not affect your device since it will be restricted to the browsers’ data.

Thus, malware from a website will not get a chance to execute its payload and affect your iPhone. Unless it somehow bypasses the sandbox environment.

Can Hackers Infect iPhones with Malware from Websites?

No system is 100% secure. In 2019, security analysts from Google’s Project Zero discovered that iOS is not immune to malware from websites.

The team discovered five exploit chains that attackers could use to infiltrate the iPhone. These exploits affected iOS 1o to iOS 12.

With the exploits, attackers could execute malware in an un-sandboxed environment by exploiting vulnerabilities in the web browser.

The team found that attackers could drop an implant that could request commands from the attacker’s command and control server.

The implant had escalated privileges and could access database files from popular apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and iMessage.

The implant could also extract unencrypted messages, contacts, photos, GPS locations, emails from Gmail, and other information.

Apple was made aware of the exploits, and it released a patch for the vulnerability.

Do Antivirus/antimalware Apps Work on iPhones?

Due to the sandbox app security environment in iOS, antivirus/antimalware apps cannot scan for malware since they can’t access data from other apps.

To bolster your iPhone security, use apps like VPNs to protect your online traffic from prying eyes.

Wrap Up

Despite iOS’s robust security measures, malware infections remain a possibility. As the threat environment continues to change, attackers persistently seek out fresh vulnerabilities to exploit.

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