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Under-fire Apple backs down, crafts new iOS to kill security safeguard

No, not the FBI thing – this is a fix for 'Error 53' bricked mobes

Apple has issued a new build of iOS that restores iPhones bricked after having third-party repairs.

The Cupertino goliath said a new version of iOS 9.2.1, available over iTunes, will restore mobiles frozen with an 'Error 53' message.

Earlier this month, people became super upset that iPhones could be rendered inoperable while upgrading their version of iOS. This bricking is triggered after fitting hardware – namely replacement touchscreens or fingerprint sensors – that are not approved by Apple.

When iOS detects these unofficial components and repairs during an update, it issues a safety alert out of fear the fingerprint sensor had been tampered with. This error, known as 'Error 53', leaves an iPhone unable to install the new firmware or revert to an earlier version, effectively bricking the handset until it's returned to Apple for an authorized repair.

The sensors are a crucial component in Apple's iOS security model [PDF, Touch ID, page 7], hence why iOS freaks out if they are changed.

Now, though, with users crying foul and accusing Apple of strong-arming users into paying for its in-house repair services rather than third-party shops, Cupertino has pushed out an updated version that will remove the error message.

To install the fixed version of iOS, users should update their copy of iTunes on their Mac or PC, connect the computer to the iThing via a USB cable, and force restart the handset by holding down the home and sleep buttons for several seconds. iTunes should then be able to install the fixed version of iOS via a full device restore.

If the 'Error 53' or other errors persist, you will need to visit the Apple store (or an authorized repair shop) for a fix after all.

The update is not being sent out over the air on the iOS Software Update tool, as those updates would be installed to phones already working and therefore would have no need to get the fix.

If you'll allow your humble hack to think aloud, Apple is being asked by the public to contradict itself. On one hand, users are pressuring the tech giant to stand up to the FBI and prevent anyone from circumventing iOS security protections, and at the same time users (perhaps the same people in some cases) want Apple to remove (or at least weaken) a feature designed to prevent that exact sort of tampering. ®

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