Keeping it clean: Protect your iPad or iPhone with VirusBarrier

Now that he uses an iPad almost daily, Derek Schauland looked into some virus-scanning protection for it. Here's his take on the reasonably-priced VirusBarrier app for iOS devices.

Intego, the makers of VirusBarrier for Mac have released a virus scanner for iOS that works on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad. When I saw the notice regarding this app, I was a bit intrigued and freaked out all at the same time. I have an iPad, how much "bad" could be on it?

Who is it for?

Now that I am using the iPad every day, I have to consider this app essential as any device that touches the Internet has the potential to find a virus or Malware (even Mac and iOS devices). The best way to protect your data and your gear is to scan it regularly; not only will you protect yourself, but you might also be protecting others by not sending out infected items.

Where can I get it and what does it cost?

VirusBarrier is available in the App Store and the cost is very reasonable, which i think was a good move on Intego's part. For the initial subscription for one year the cost is $2.99 and for renewal, the cost is $1.99.

Your iOS device will also need to be running iOS 4.0 or later for VirusBarrier to work.

Figure A shows VirusBarrier for iOS after I configured it for Dropbox. (Note: The files have been grayed out for privacy reasons.)

Figure A

Out of date definitions

How does it work?

VirusBarrier for iOS scans locations where you may access your data on iOS devices. For example, when I started it up and moved past the welcome tool tip, the Remote locations dialog appeared. The idea here is that you add remote locations like Dropbox, iDisk, webdav locations, and even websites to be scanned by the device.

File types checked include zip files, Windows file types, Mac file types and Unix file types. This means that the file will be scanned regardless of who sent it your way.

Because of the secure and controlled environment that is an iOS device, scheduled scans are not possible. VirusBarrier is an on-demand scanner. Scanning of your files takes place when you specify, by selecting files or locations within the application.

I was a bit curious about the websites option within the application. Sure the idea of scanning websites is interesting, but I guess I hadn't given much thought to actually specifying the sites to scan. When you do so, you can provide the following details:

  • Server name - a friendly name for the site you are scanning
  • Address - the web address for the site
  • Levels - the number of levels within the site you wish to scan

Websites are scanned for phishing URLs, hosted malware, and other web-based threats. Considering a good amount of the information on an iOS device (perhaps other than the music, video, and phone specific items) comes from the web, the ability to directly scan specified websites is a great feature. Simply select the type of remote location -- I chose Dropbox -- and enter your details for each service you connect to. Upon adding a service, VirusBarrier iOS will open the contents of the location in a list and allow you to select all files or individual files for scanning. Simply tap the file in the list and the scan takes off.

Note: VirusBarrier can be configured to check for definition updates by tapping the installed Malware Definitions: <Date> at the bottom left corner of the app. The options for definitions are also shown in above Figure A.

As you can see, the status of your subscription, date of definitions, and frequency of update checking is available for your review. When you select files to scan, if the malware definitions are out of date (which will cause the configuration button at the bottom to turn red) you will be prompted to update and scan or just scan. Update and scan is always preferable.

Once a scan completes, you will be alerted to the status of the file -- whether it is infected and needs to be cleaned. Figure B displays the results of a clean scanned file.

Figure B

A non-infected file post scan

In addition to keeping your iOS devices malware free, the app also keeps logs of what it has scanned and the results of the scan; the Logs button on the bottom right of the display will show all the logs taken by VirusBarrier.

Bottom Line

Because more and more people and devices are accessing the Internet, a good virus/malware utility is a must. Cleaning up a computer that is infected with malware is enough of a process, but imagine doing the same thing on a mobile device. I would certainly rather be safe than sorry.