Tech giant Apple may finally have a solution to the Error 53 bug that was bricking some iPhones that had been repaired by third-party providers. Sort of. The problem first came to public attention two weeks ago with reports that the latest iOS update rendered iPhones that used the Touch ID fingerprint sensor completely unusable.
Yesterday, Apple released a patched version of iOS 9.2.1 that it said should unbrick any phones that had been affected by the bug. There’s just one caveat: users who were hit with Error 53 won’t be able to use the Touch ID feature without taking their handsets in to an official Apple repair center.
"We apologize for any inconvenience. This was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers," Apple said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. "Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement."
A Matter of Security
The reason users have to bring their devices to an official Apple repair shop has to do with the security precautions that ensure fingerprint records stored on the device are kept secure. It will also prevent unscrupulous repair shops from potentially gaining unauthorized access to a user’s phone.
Error 53 affects phones whose home button assemblies have been replaced by unauthorized, third-party repair shops, and whose users updated or restored their iOS devices in iTunes via Macs or PCs. iPhones that experienced the error froze on a “Connect to iTunes” screen. Users who upgraded their systems over the air through iCloud were, most likely, not affected.
Apple had originally described the error message as a security measure designed to prevent the Touch ID system from being exploited. Now, the company is saying that the error message occurs when a device fails a security test to ensure that the Touch ID sensor is working correctly before it leaves the factory. However, Apple said it was never intended to affect users. The question, though, is why should a security test intended only for the factory brick the entire phone?
The answer revolves around the way Apple designed the security architecture of the Touch ID feature. The user’s fingerprints are stored in a separate coprocessor that's isolated from the rest of the device, preventing it from being compromised by hackers or malware. To replace a faulty home button assembly, the repair shop must both verify that the new part is legitimate and recalibrate it so it can access the fingerprint files kept on the coprocessor.
Making the coprocessor accessible to anyone doing the repairs would defeat the entire purpose of the security system. That’s why Apple can’t issue a fix that also re-enables Touch ID without compromising security. But despite the security logic behind disabling such third-party parts, the effect of disabling thousands of iPhones generated a serious amount of Internet rage directed at the company.
At least one law firm is already working on a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of affected users. Yesterday’s fix, along with the apology the company issued in the media, should go a long way toward mollifying angry customers even if it doesn’t restore the phone’s Touch ID functionality.
Posted: 2016-02-20 @ 2:34am PT
What a load of BS.. this was a marketing ploy.. just backfired on them and they haven't the guts to admit it.