New iOS update bricks many iPhones – could yours be next?

Apple has done it again.

This time, some iPhone 6 users who update their iOS to the latest version were faced with a dead “Error 53” that would not go away no matter what.

The Error 53 message
The Error 53 message

Thousands users claim they have been left holding “bricks” because Apple’s latest operating system permanently disables the handset if it detects that a repair has been carried out by a non-Apple technician. Specifically, this occurs when the phone detects that the TouchID sensor has been modified. In response, the phone permanently locks itself out – even Apple themselves would not be able to retrieve the data.

The issue affects not only users who have their phone serviced by a non-Apple technician, but also if their TouchID sensors are faulty.

As the phone was working prior to the software update, the issue only came to light when users updated their software and received a rude shock.

The issue only affects iOS 9.
The issue only affects iOS 9.

Upon media outlets reaching out to Apple, one of their spokeswomen gave the following comment:

“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.”

Protecting from hackers... by destroying the phone?
Protecting from hackers… by destroying the phone?

In other words, we’re just trying to protect you from malicious hackers by disabling your phone entirely.

It’s good to know that Apple is taking security seriously, but bricking users’ handsets without even a warning seems a bit too extreme. We think that a simple warning that the TouchID was modified could do a much better job.

“If you lock your keys in your own car, AAA can open it back up for you,” writes iFixit’s Kyle Weins on the iFixit blog. “If you lock yourself out of your house, a locksmith can get you back into it. No one is going to make you throw your apartment away because they’re afraid of the locksmith. Their ability to unlock things for owners doesn’t pose an unnecessary security risk.”

Some view this as Apple’s move to weed out third-party repair shops in favour of its own repair service, which can cost up to 4 times as much. Even in Singapore, where we find an Apple retail store in almost every shopping centre, many still go to smaller repair shops because they are cheaper and offer faster service. In some countries, there isn’t even an Apple repair shop within hundreds of miles!

Throw more money at Apple!
Throw more money at Apple!

Meanwhile, there’s no other solution other than not upgrading your phone’s software, or biting the bullet and throwing more cash at Apple.

What do you think about this move?

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