Apple un-bricks “Error 53” iPhones, will refund those it denied warranty

Apple has backed down on a blunt measure it took to protect hardware-based security in newer iPhones equipped with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

iPhone owners affected by the so-called “Error 53” bricking issue will be glad to know that Apple has released a new version iOS 9.2.1 that restores the device’s functionality except for Touch ID if the fingerprint sensor has been installed by non-authorised technicians.

The Error 53 issue has plagued iPhone 6 owners for several months but gained wider attention after a reporter from The Guardian complained a week ago that updating to iOS 9 will “kill your iPhone”. iPhones that experienced the error would be caught in a continuous reboot process.

Apple has faced accusations that it was was being unfair and punishing iPhone owners for repairing their devices on the cheap. It even triggered a class action claim that accused Apple of abusing its loyal fans.

However, as Apple explained amid the growing furore, Error 53 was a security measure to protect Touch ID. It occurred when an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S or 6S Plus failed an iOS security test that checked whether the Touch ID sensor was correctly paired with the iPhone.

The security check itself made sense since the “secure enclave” — a cryptographic co-processor to the main chip that runs applications the iPhone — that supports Touch ID is the sole location of a cryptographic key that is used to protect fingerprint data. It also is used to verify that the user’s fingerprint matches the enrolled fingerprint data. As such, it guards much of the data on the iPhones with Touch ID.

Still, as Computerworld Apple-watcher Jonny Evans argued earlier this month, Apple made a mess of its response to the failed security check, firstly, by retrospectively changing the rules of iPhone repair, and secondly by bricking the iPhone when a more nuanced approach would have worked. If Apple needed to protect the secure enclave and Touch ID from potential malicious actors, a fairer option would be to disable Touch ID rather than the whole device.

The other issue raised in the class action suit was that Apple turned away customers affected by Error 53 since it was self-inflicted damage caused by using an unauthorised repair service.

Apple has now done a complete about-face. The fix, available via an iTunes update, will restore all functionality to affected devices except for Touch ID. Apple will also reimburse to customers who’d bought a new iPhone because of Error 53. Apple has provided instructions for installing the update here.

In a statement to Tech Crunch Apple explained that the security test was “designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers.”

“This test was designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory,” it said.

“Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement.”

Today’s revision should spell the end of the class action bid and will likely go a long way to quelling concerns that Error 53 was anything but an attempt by Apple to protect a critical piece of iPhone security.

Read more: Google asks devs to disable iOS 9 privacy feature 'to protect advertising'

With data increasingly being stored in the cloud, it’s critical to be able to evaluate and manage the security of cloud solutions. Dropbox's Solutions Architect team are teaming up with the Symantec Information Protection group to discuss the latest industry best practices.

Register here for the February 25th webinar on* Managing enterprise cloud security.

Join us at the CSO Perspectives Roadshow in March.

CSO is proud to present our international keynote speakers: Robert Lentz, former CISO of US Department of Defense discussing the evolution of Cyber Security and Graham Cluley, world- renown IT Security blogger and Analyst (UK) on the rise of Malware in our age. We will also be featuring our Security Awareness stream, where you will hear from the likes of NAB and ANZ, as they discuss the importance of staff and customer security awareness programs. We will have up to 18 different interactive Security Exchange discussions on a variety of different topics for you to choose from as you build your personalised agenda for the day. Join CSO for a day of networking with your peers, engaging and discussing topics relevant to you, hearing from some of the top worldwide IT Security leaders in the market and attending the exhibition floor to win some amazing prizes.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleError 53​cryptographiciPhoneiOS 9.2.1CSO AustraliawarrantyJonny EvansiPhones

More about AppleCSOCustomersDropboxIT SecurityNABSymantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Liam Tung

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place