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Users Facing 'Error 53' Bricking Message After Third-Party iPhone 6 Home Button Repairs

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Some iPhone 6 users who had their smartphones repaired by third-party technicians are reporting that a mysterious "error 53" message is permanently bricking their iPhones (via The Guardian). Users who have had Touch ID on their iPhone 6 fixed by a non-Apple technician, and agreed to update the iPhone to the most recent version of iOS, are facing an issue which essentially prevents all access to the iPhone.

Freelance photographer Antonio Olmos is one such affected iPhone 6 user who had his iPhone repaired in Macedonia while working. He said "it worked perfectly" after the repair shop finished fixing the broken screen and home button, but once he updated to iOS 9 he got an "error 53" message and could no longer access any of his personal content on the iPhone. An Apple Store in London was shown the issue, and staff there admitted there was nothing they could do for him besides sell him a new iPhone.

"The whole thing is extraordinary. How can a company deliberately make their own products useless with an upgrade and not warn their own customers about it? Outside of the big industrialized nations, Apple stores are few and far between, and damaged phones can only be brought back to life by small third-party repairers," Olmos said. "I am not even sure these third-party outfits even know this is a potential problem."
Speaking with The Guardian, iFixit's Kyle Wiens said that the issue, while still unclear, appears to be Apple ensuring only genuine components are being used for repairs. Once a third party changes the home button or internal cable, the iPhone checks to be sure that all original components are running the phone, and if there are any discrepancies users face the "error 53" message and can't access their data. Since mentions of "error 53" span a few versions of iOS, it's unclear specifically which software update began the phone-locking error message.

An Apple spokeswoman commented on the issue, referring to protective security features intended to prevent "malicious" third-party components from potentially compromising a user's iPhone as the main reason for the "error 53" message.
"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 unauthorized 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."
Other than that, Apple hasn't commented on the issue or outlined exactly what the company can do for those affected by the iPhone bricking error message. Mentions of "error 53" have been around since at least last April, where some users have encountered the issue in software updates as early as iOS 8.3.

Article Link: Users Facing 'Error 53' Bricking Message After Third-Party iPhone 6 Home Button Repairs
 
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sim667

macrumors 65816
Dec 7, 2010
1,374
2,883
This is actually a good thing. However, people will still be mad.

Why?

If my iPhone is out of warranty, then I should be able to have it repaired by who ever I want.

I can see why it might be a good thing to avoid circumventing the security on stolen phones, but from a user standpoint who wants a repair, apple repairs aren't exactly the cheapest, or in the UK and other countries where apple stores are only in big cities, its a pain in the rear not being able to take it to a local phone shop.
 

cmChimera

macrumors 68040
Feb 12, 2010
3,989
2,865
Why?

If my iPhone is out of warranty, then I should be able to have it repaired by who ever I want.

You understand the security risks though? If someone could just install hacked touch ID sensors, then your data could be compromised. Apple has a responsibility to prevent scenarios like that.

And you don't have to get it fixed by Apple per se, but they probably need to be an authorized repair center. Otherwise what's to stop cheap repair shops from putting in Chinese knockoff TouchID sensors and putting your security and or personal information at risk?
 

napabar

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
317
481
Why?

If my iPhone is out of warranty, then I should be able to have it repaired by who ever I want.

I can see why it might be a good thing to avoid circumventing the security on stolen phones, but from a user standpoint who wants a repair, apple repairs aren't exactly the cheapest, or in the UK and other countries where apple stores are only in big cities, its a pain in the rear not being able to take it to a local phone shop.

Wrong! Not when it involves the fingerprint scanner and it's attachment to the secure enclave. Without this security, anyone could hack an iPhone by replacing the sensor. Think!
 

clickerman

macrumors member
Jul 23, 2010
35
15
This is Apple telling us not to venture out of their ecosystem. In this case, if you try it your phone will be bricked. Imagine if you had to use genuine GM parts to repair your car or else your care is bricked. This scares the **** out of me.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

just.in.time

macrumors member
Dec 13, 2010
61
146
Arizona, USA
This is a good thing. At least we know Apple is doing their best to keep the TouchID system as secure as possible. It's not Apple's responsibility to inform customers of a repair center that they could end up with a bricked phone. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the third party shops.

Apple occasionally does questionable things in attempting to get people to upgrade. However, I don't believe this is one of those times.
 

GadgetBen

macrumors 68000
Jul 8, 2015
1,555
2,843
London
When you have your entire wallet and personal data guarded by a fingerprint sensor that could be compromised by third party parts from China, people shouldn't complain. All because they wanted to get dodgy dave down the market to fit a new part for a tenner.
 

jamesnajera

macrumors 6502
Oct 5, 2003
411
116
I think Apple should have a pop up message informing the user of the potential hardware security issue. This would be a pop up that could happen daily without the ability to be disabled (basically some type of awareness message informing the user of the risk they are operating with). The point that Apple makes regarding security is completely valid, but disabling the iPhone is probably to harsh for the general public. This is great for the phone when being used in a government or enterprise business environment, but those types of businesses can write off a phone and buy a new one when a phone breaks.
 

just.in.time

macrumors member
Dec 13, 2010
61
146
Arizona, USA
This is Apple telling us not to venture out of their ecosystem. In this case, if you try it your phone will be bricked. Imagine if you had to use genuine GM parts to repair your car or else your care is bricked. This scares the s++t out of me.
Don't be silly. This involves the security of the TouchID system. This helps ensure it hasn't been compromised. Now if this same error was being applied to a battery replacement, I could see the validity of your statement. But as such, I have to disagree with you.
 
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