How You Can Fix An iPhone Hit With Error 53

Apple apologized to users over a security feature that left some iPhone unusable after being fixed by third-parties.

Feb 18 2016, 10:12pm

Image: Karlis Dambrans/Flickr

Well that didn't take too long.

Apple has provided a solution for iPhone users impacted by Error 53, which rendered the smartphone unusable after unauthorized third-party service centers made repairs involving the Home button. The solution, an update to iOS (version 9.2.1), began rolling out on Thursday, less than two weeks after the issue received widespread attention following a report in The Guardian.

Affected users should be able to plug their non-working iPhone into iTunes to receive the update, Apple told TechCrunch. Apple has also apologized "for any inconvenience" caused by Error 53, while noting that the update will not re-enable the Touch ID fingerprint reader (to do that you'll need to visit an Apple authorized repair center).

To recap: Error 53 appeared whenever a security test failed between Touch ID and the onboard Secure Enclave (which processes fingerprint data and is used to authenticate the iPhone's owner). This commonly occurred after third-party repair centers not authorized by Apple repaired users' Home buttons. One security researcher, Jonathan Zdziarski, told Motherboard earlier this month that Error 53 was a "basic anti-tampering mechanism," and that these mechanisms are an "overall good idea" to help protect the integrity of users' data.

While perhaps true in absolute terms, users affected by the issue were understandably disturbed that Apple's initial response to complaints was merely to direct people to contact the company's support team. The incident also spoke to the troubling trend of companies making it harder for their customers to repair their own devices.

Kyle Wiens, the CEO of gadget repair resource iFixit, told Motherboard in a phone interview that his technicians were able to verify that Apple's update did, in fact, fix iPhones that were previously affected by Error 53, with the update process taking less than five minutes.

"What's really key is that Apple is recognizing that independent repair of their devices happens, and that's OK," Wiens said. "Before it was a little bit like Apple was arguing against the existence of gravity saying, 'Nobody but us should fix iPhones'."

So while Apple's dedication to iPhone user security should surprise no one (besides the FBI), this fix probably strikes a more human balance between security and ease of use.