Today for the third time I visited a website from Google and got the could not install profile popup on my ipad.  I wanted to find out if this means my iphone or ipad is infected with malware or a virus.  Here is the result of my investigation.

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The first time I got the popup was soon after I got my new iPad 3.  This was 3 days after release day.  The popup  always occurs when browsing websites using Safari.  The message appears when the website visited using Safari has banner advertising.  Banner ads are one of the most prolific sources of malware.

Does the “could not install profile” alert message mean I have a virus or malware? This comes in 2 parts.  There are the things we know, and the things we don’t know.

First, what is a profile?  Profiles are used on iOS devices as a method of setting a VPN.  Corporate and other large networks that are using Apple devices set up profiles on every IOS device.  These profiles allow network and systems administrators to quickly set every IOS device to the same settings.  You can find your profile settings in the settings area.

Why would a virus or malware want to change my profile settings or add a profile?  The truth is we don’t know for sure.  The main obvious reason is to add a VPN server to your iOS device.  This would route all your internet activity through their server.  The virus owner could then capture all network traffic, and clean out your non SSL usernames and passwords.

What we don’t know right now is important too.  We don’t know if this profile popup is part of a behind the scenes virus method.  Meaning it might just be an indicator that is activated as part of the virus getting in to your device.  For example, the malware might use the profiles door in a new or innovative way (buffer overflow), and part of that sets off the profile alert.

Conclusion.  I only use my ipad for casual browsing and games.  If it was for corporate or serious use I would wipe the filesystem and update the IOS operating system to the latest version released from Apple.

If you know more about the “could not install profile” popup leave a comment and I will add new information to this guide.

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