Let’s say you break your iPhone. You have two choices. You can take it to Apple to get it fixed. But that could cost you a fair amount of money. Or you do what most people do which is to use a third party service to fix their iDevice. That’s great. But now it seems that some people who fall into the latter category have a problem. A recent software update from Apple is bricking, or making their device non-functional:
Relatively few people outside the tech world are aware of the so-called “error 53” problem, but if it happens to you you’ll know about it. And according to one specialist journalist, it “will kill your iPhone”.
The issue appears to affect handsets where the home button, which has touch ID fingerprint recognition built-in, has been repaired by a “non-official” company or individual. It has also reportedly affected customers whose phone has been damaged but who have been able to carry on using it without the need for a repair.
But the problem only comes to light when the latest version of Apple’s iPhone software, iOS 9, is installed. Indeed, the phone may have been working perfectly for weeks or months since a repair or being damaged.
After installation a growing number of people have watched in horror as their phone, which may well have cost them £500-plus, is rendered useless. Any photos or other data held on the handset is lost – and irretrievable.
Tech experts claim Apple knows all about the problem but has done nothing to warn users that their phone will be “bricked” (ie, rendered as technologically useful as a brick) if they install the iOS upgrade.
Lovely. Here’s what Apple had to say:
A spokeswoman for Apple told Money (get ready for a jargon overload): “We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”
She adds: “When an iPhone is serviced by an unauthorised repair provider, faulty screens or other invalid components that affect the touch ID sensor could cause the check to fail if the pairing cannot be validated. With a subsequent update or restore, additional security checks result in an ‘error 53’ being displayed … If a customer encounters an unrecoverable error 53, we recommend contacting Apple support.”
One thing that really makes me suspicious about this whole thing is the fact that as of the last day or two, Apple will now allow you to upgrade your broken iPhone in their stores. That seems like too much of a coincidence to me. But I am the cynical type.