Error 53

People are jumping all over Apple for issuing an update to iOS 9 that is bricking iPhones with the message Error 53. The error is related to a software update that can’t finish because a Touch ID check fails. Basically Apple needs to verify that Touch ID hasn’t been tampered with, and this check is made during update installation.

The weird part about it to me is that a non-Apple authorized screen replacement can trigger the issue. Why does the screen matter to Touch ID? I’m not sure.

As far as the Touch ID sensor itself goes, I don’t really side with the angry people on this. Installing a non-paired sensor can basically let you hijack Touch ID and bypass the built-in security measures. Whether or not it has to actually brick the phone for security reasons is another matter; it seems like it could just disable Touch ID and let the owner know why.

I can understand why people are angry at Apple for the fact that an unauthorized hardware replacement can be made and the iPhone will still work until a software update is attempted. It does seem odd that the check isn’t performed at iPhone power on. On the other hand, I disagree with the yelling about Apple’s arrogance and control freakery. Apple is the one company that built their fingerprint sensor for security and privacy, so that the actual fingerprint can’t be accessed by software outside the secure enclave. By making sure the sensor is paired with the chip, they’re just taking steps to make sure that no one is messing with it.

I see both sides on this one. People like Cory Doctorow, who think that any sort of limits on hardware and software openness are always bad, regardless of the reason for them, are always going to get upset about it.

Apple could certainly institute such a procedure, but they have chosen not to. Instead, Iphone customers are finding that their investments and data are being confiscated by a distant, high-handed corporation that gets to hide behind tens of thousands of words’ worth of never-read, all-encompassing terms of service.

Okay, whatever, Cory. Personally, my question is why does Apple only wait for a software update to check this, and how do they let people know in advance they can’t just throw random parts into their iPhones?

I guess they could show a message at first boot or first setup that warns about replacing parts in the iPhone with unauthorized parts. Truthfully everyone is just going to tap right past them anyway.

My view is that, yes, this can be a real problem for some people and perhaps Apple could handle it better, but BoingBoing is ascribing malice and evil where none exists.