Apple’s Error 53 shuts down handsets with Touch ID repairs

iPhone 6 users have been left with broken handsets as a result of Apple’s latest iOS 9 operating system update permanently disabling devices if it detects that Touch ID’s hardware integrity has been compromised — such as by being repaired by a non-Apple technician.

AppleThe ‘Error 53’ issue appears to affect handsets where third party repairs have been carried out to the home button, which also houses the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that secures Apple Pay transactions.

“We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers,” Apple said in a statement sent to NFC World. “iOS checks that the Touch ID sensor in your iPhone or iPad correctly matches your device’s other components.

“If iOS finds a mismatch, the check fails and Touch ID, including for Apple Pay use, is disabled. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used.”

“We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the Touch ID sensor,” the company explained further in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Security perspective

The Touch ID sensor is part of Apple’s black box fingerprint security solution, so the company and its partners, such as financial institutions working with Apple Pay, need to be sure that all the hardware involved is trusted and has not been modified in any way. While this is a reasonable requirement from a security perspective, Apple is facing difficulty making customers understand that their device can no longer be regarded as secure simply because a third party repaired an innocuous-looking component. In the Android world, financial institutions have long faced similar frustrations when consumers learn that rooting their device means that it can no longer be trusted to run mobile banking applications.

“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,” Apple adds. “With a subsequent update or restore, additional security checks results in an ‘Error 53’ being displayed. If a customer encounters an unrecoverable Error 53, we recommend contacting Apple support.”

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One comment on this article

  1. I’m confused how this makes your phone secure. So you get it repaired at a non-authorized place. Assuming they are intent on stealing your information, they change something. So you don’t update to ios 9 for 6 months. Then for 6 months apple is allowing your information to be stolen, then you update and your entire phone is bricked. How does this make you more secure?

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