iPhone Error 53 Is A Deadly Security Feature

iPhone users are seeing a new twist on the dreaded "Error 53" screens, which signals a smartphone is beyond repair. Apple reportedly notes that Error 53 is the result of a Touch ID security feature designed to protect users.

Dawn Kawamoto, Associate Editor, Dark Reading

February 8, 2016

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Peter Burnett/iStockphoto)</p>

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Apple iPhone users with an enabled Touch ID thumbprint reader are at risk of encountering the dreaded "Error 53" screen, which indicates the device has been rendered useless, according to a report in The Guardian.

This problem rears its ugly head when a user relies on a third-party repair shop to fix the iPhone or iPad and that shop replaces the Touch ID sensor button. When the next iOS update rolls around, that's when the Error 53 screen will likely appear.

In a statement emailed to InformationWeek on Monday, Feb. 8, an Apple spokesperson noted:

We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. 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. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.

Apple user Adalegit encountered this trouble last year, for example. In a post on Apple's support community page, Adalegit said:

I have recently broken my iPhone screen and got it fixed with a different company. This is due to apple wanting to charge me almost half the cost of the iPhone six (300/350 euro), which is crazy for someone who is in college, even the people in the shop I bought it in told me fixing it somewhere else would be ok. I got my screen fixed and for some time it was working normally, however I could not update my phone. "error 53" kept showing up on my screen when I attempted to install and update and also when I connected it to iTunes. One day the iPhone switched off and all my data was wiped off my phone without any notice. the 'connect to iTunes' came up on the screen, I connected it however iTunes kept showing an error message (53). I handed it to the shop I got it from but supposedly I do not have a warranty for it anymore because I got my screen fixed elsewhere. I googled the error code online and supposedly this error pops up when iPhones notice a change in the iPhone (home button/screen etc.) . Now I am left with no iPhone or data, my phone does not turn on anymore. I don't know what to do, Apple seems to be forcing people to spend a large amount of money on a simple repair, which I simply could not afford. Does that mean my iPhone six is gone? Or maybe is there some solution?

However, over the years, the fatal Error 53 messages have popped up on Apple iPhones, iPads, and iPods for other reasons other than the Touch ID sensor, as noted by the grumblings on the Apple Support Communities page.

[Read about getting a refund for cracked or broken iPhone.]

When that happens, as in the case of the Touch ID sensor, iPhone and iPad users whose device is no longer under warranty, or whose device is still under warranty but has third-party hardware installed on it, will find themselves out of luck in getting a free replacement device. They will be required to shell out money for another device.

That's because under Apple's terms and conditions, third-party hardware on their Apple device will not be covered under Apple's warranty.

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About the Author(s)

Dawn Kawamoto

Associate Editor, Dark Reading

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's News.com, TheStreet.com, AOL's DailyFinance, and The Motley Fool. More recently, she served as associate editor for technology careers site Dice.com.

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