It's not an iPad virus!

Our local computer club provides free help to people in the community. Recently they sent out an email saying this:

I have now helped 6 people with a virus that has been infecting iPads. The message appears on the iPad screen stating that your software has crashed and you need to call Microsoft to repair it. The number to call is 1-855-720-2636. People who have called the number were told that they would have to pay $130.00 to get rid of it.The message stays on the screen and you can't get rid of it. This has affected iPhones as well. If you have this problem call me and I'll help you get rid of it For FREE.

I groaned when I saw that and immediately shot back that this is not a virus but simply a Javascript browser hijack and that it is easily fixed by closing Safari and doing Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

To my surprise, I later got this from the author of the warning:

I know it's not a virus, you know it's not a virus but it has been my experience that most people do not understand what Java Script Hijack means therefore I keep it very simple for them.


Keeping it "simple" causes very wrong impressions of what this is and what it can do. It also can cause stupid rumors to spread: "Oh, don't buy an iPad - they have viruses!".

Nor is it iPad related. Javascript hijacks like that happen on ALL platforms: Windows, Android, Apple computers - it's the browser, not the operating system!

I also don't think we should be deciding what people can or cannot understand. I agree that some of the people who seek help from that club are not capable of following even simple instructions or are too lazy to want to. But that's not the case for all and it's also true that assuming incompetence creates incompetence.

I've always taken the tack of explaining things like this fully (or at least providing a link to somewhere that explains) and then politely offering to provide direct assistance if needed. I think that's the best way to do it.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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