A journalist for The Guardian named Antonio Olmos was covering the story related to refugee crisis when his iPhone’s screen broke down. He had to get it repaired from a third-party store. His phone worked properly after the fix, but the update produced “Error 53” screen. When he reached out for help to an Apple store, the staff told him to get it replaced out of pocket. It was not the first time this error had emerged. Once the error emerged, there was no option than sending it back to Apple HQ. Apple clarified that Error 53 has been the result of security checks carried out at the time of updating the software. These checks ensured that the TouchID sensor paired to the internal Secure Enclave chip. There was a unique pair formed between the fingerprint reader and the internal chip. This pairing secured fingerprint information that can be stolen from the device.
“We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers,” said Apple, in an official statement to The Verge. “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.”
Though Apple is concerned about the security of users, it has been found that the firm misled Australian customers. According to the firm, it misled nearly 275 customers from Australia whose devices were affected by Error 53. They were told that their devices were irreparable and needed to be replaced. According to Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the tech giant connected with nearly 5,000 affected customers. The firm estimated that the disruption between the touch sensor and its Secure Enclave would affect only touch sensor, but it was found that the whole device has been affected. So, the Australian Court ordered the tech giant to pay $9 million AUD (about $6.6 million USD) in penalties for making misleading claims to customers with their faulty iPhones and iPads about their rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
“If a product is faulty, customers are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement under the Australian Consumer Law, and sometimes even a refund. Apple’s representations led customers to believe they’d be denied a remedy for their faulty device because they used a third party repairer,” said ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court. “The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer’s right to a remedy being extinguished.”
The issue was raised by hundreds of customers and they were told that the phones were unrecoverable. After the issue caused a lot of stir, the Cupertino-headquartered tech giant issued a patch to restore the functionality of countless bricked phones. However, it did not restore the functionality of the fingerprint reader. Enabling the connection might have provided a way to malicious programs to steal the fingerprint information of users. Many users have demonstrated that Android systems do not have such hardware verification system.