iTunes Error 53: The (in)convenience of security

Recently there’s been a lot of beat-up in the press about Error 53, an error which may appear in iTunes when the iOS software on iPhones or iPads which feature Touch ID is updated.

The ACCC has initiated an investigation to determine whether this error, which is triggered by a security measure, contravenes consumer protection and competition laws.

So what exactly is iTunes Error 53, and how do you avoid your iPhone or iPad becoming “bricked”?

Security

Starting with the iPhone 5s, Apple introduced Touch ID. Touch ID is a fingerprint sensor and secure fingerprint information, used to unlock your iPhone and make purchases, in place of your security code. It increases security because it’s uniquely biometric and also because many people who choose to not use a passcode can conveniently use their fingerprint instead.

The fingerprint information itself is kept in a separate, secure part of the iPhone, and is only accessibly to the sensor. Apple, any third parties, and even the iPhone’s processor cannot access the fingerprint information. The only information the iPhone’s processor knows is whether a fingerprint attempt was successful or not.

To maintain Touch ID security the sensor is paired to the rest of the phone, and this pairing must be maintained. If this weren’t the case then a hacker could simply replace the Touch ID sensor, and use a bogus sensor to fake successful fingerprint results; essentially giving thieves an easy way to steal from you.

iTunes Error 53 explained

itunes-error-53

iTunes showing Error 53 for an iPhone

iTunes Error 53 occurs when the iPhone no longer recognises the Touch ID sensor.

It’s typically the result of a screen replacement which includes a sensor replacement without re-pairing. A while back I wrote about how long an iPhone screen replacement takes – and this is part of the reason.

Third party repair places may replace the screen and sensor without re-pairing, and that’s where the problem occurs.

If you are experiencing Error 53, then follow Apple’s official support advice.

Check if you are affected

Touch ID is included in a number of Apple devices, so you could be affected. Devices include:

  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Pro
  • iPad Mini 3 and 4

If you’ve ever had a screen replaced on one of these devices, and it’s wasn’t via Apple, then back up your device, DO NOT run a software update, and head to your local Apple Store to have your device checked, as a preventative measure.

Once affected with Error 53 your iPhone or iPad will likely be “bricked” – lost for all time.

Always go to Apple for repairs

Our advice is to always go to Apple, or an authorised service agent, for your iPhone or iPad repairs. Not just for the great service which includes a warranty, but to protect your investment.

And one more thing… We’ve seen a lot of YouTube videos purporting to show how to fix Error 53. All of them involve extensive repairs on your iPhone, using parts you won’t have access to. As always our advice is to visit your local Apple Store.

*** Update 19 Feb 2016 ***

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Apple has released a software update to fix “bricked” iPhones. To apply the fix, do the following (see original SMH article here):

  1. If iTunes is open on your Mac or PC, quit iTunes.
  2. If your iOS device is plugged into your computer, unplug it.
  3. Make sure that you have the latest version of iTunes.
  4. Connect your iOS device to your computer with a USB cable.
  5. Open iTunes and select your device.
  6. When you see the option in iTunes to Restore or Update, click Restore.*
  7. When you see your iOS device’s Hello screen, follow the onscreen steps to set up your device.
    • If you previously backed up your device, you can set up from your backup.
    • When you see the screen for Touch ID, tap Set up Touch ID later.
  8. If Touch ID on your device didn’t work before you saw error 53, the feature still won’t work after you restore your device. Contact Apple Support to ask about service options for Touch ID.

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Apple wall plug safety recall

Apple has recently issued a recall of wall plugs for power adapters, and you should gather all your affected wall plugs – a.k.a. “duckheads” – and get them replaced, for safety’s sake.

How to tell…

You can tell if your adapters are affected fairly easily. Look on the back of the duckhead – the bit that plugs into the wall socket – and if you see 4 or 5 numbers then it’s affected. If it says “AUS” or some other 3 letter code, then it’s not affected.

duckhead-id

What to do…

Visit your local Apple Store, and they’ll be happy to exchange the affected part of the adapters. Don’t bring the entire adapter – just the duckhead. If you have a bucket load it may be better to contact your local Apple Store Business Team first; they’ll be able to direct you.

Numbers and reasons…

Numerically, it’s a large recall, spanning over a decade of adapters which shipped with iPhones, iPads, Mac portables, Airport base stations, and even sold individually – probably somewhere in the hundreds of millions.

But there have only been 12 documented cases of faults, so statistically, it’s tiny.

So why the recall?

Simple – it involves electricity, and the possibility (however remote) of Apple’s customers being injured or killed. Apple takes safety very seriously, and it’s a testament to their commitment to quality and safety, and (above all) the customer, which has led them to take this proactive measure.

More information is available on Apple’s web site.

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Business IT Resilience

Like so many years before it, 2016 is set to be another transient year. We’re already in February, and before you know it we’ll be in May, then October will appear before you get a chance to pop your head up again.

While this transience gives us a great opportunity to reflect and plan, it’s not a word which should apply to the continuity plan of your business data and processes, including your IT systems.

You may have dodged some bullets over the past year, so it’s time to plan to avoid them altogether, by putting into place a business continuity and disaster recovery plan.

It’s time for resilience.

iHelp IT have a range of solutions to make your business IT resilient to both disaster and change.

Dramatic Disasters

The evacuations which took place as the 2014 Lindt Café siege unfolded are an extreme example of a disaster. Thousands were evacuated, and things didn’t return to normal in the city for almost 2 days. Less frequent but more devastating is a flood or fire. Recent extreme weather as the result of climate change demonstrate the random, uncontrollable nature of these events.

If your business premises were torn apart, razed to the ground, or swept away could you access your data? Could you answer your phones? Could you deliver work to your clients?

If your workplace was out for the count for 2 weeks would your business survive?

Common Catastrophes

While the scenarios above are possible, they occur far less frequently than the mundane, yet most business are not prepared for these common events either.

People want to work from home, staff travel for business, employees have babies, and (occasionally) the business moves location. Problems arise simply due to staff movements as they take knowledge with them. If Betty from accounts doesn’t have documented processes, how will her replacement, Bill, know where to start?

In these situations resilient systems become more vital, as money quietly slips out the door due to the loss of productivity.

Resilient Solutions

If your business can’t continue in the event of an unforeseen incident, or if everyday events present a challenge, then you are leaking money, and may not have a business after a disaster. You should consider better solutions.

iHelp IT can help you, with these solutions:

  1. DocumentSamePage is a system we’ve been using for years to document (samepage.io). It’s cloud based, free, and accessible via your web browser.
  2. BackupTime Machine is built into every Mac, so a local NAS is perfect for daily backups. For extra security we use and recommend CrashPlan Pro (code42.com/business) – it’s only $11/m for your server.
  3. Cloud email – We offer Kerio Connect mail / contacts / calendar hosting (mail.ihelpit.com.au). We backup daily, give you 25 GB of storage per mailbox, and offer our personal touch for support.
  4. Cloud phones – Get rid of that clunky old physical PABX, and move to a cloud PABX with My Cloud Phones (mycloudphones.com). Setup takes under a week, costs are dramatically reduced, and you can connect all your offices to one system.
  5. VPN – Access your server from anywhere in the world with a Kerio Control router and super-secure, stable VPN.

Ready to be Resilient?

When you’re ready to create a business continuity and disaster recovery plan to make your business resilient give us a call on 1300 469 622.

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