The Guardian ran a scary story Friday about a mysterious iPhone error message that can wipe everything off your device.
It's called Error 53, and it kicks in when an unauthorized repair person attempts to fix your iPhone.
According to the Guardian's story, one of the paper's photographers was on assignment in Macedonia when his iPhone broke. Out of options, he took it to a local unauthorized Apple repair shop. The repair shop was able to fix his phone, but when he updated to the latest version of iOS, he got the Error 53 message and was essentially locked out of his phone for good.
The Guardian quoted an Apple spokesperson and explained why Error 53 happens. Without getting too technical, here's the real story behind Error 53:
If Apple or an authorized service center fixes a home button with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the phone needs to validate Touch ID again after the repair. This can only be done by Apple or someone authorized by Apple to fix iPhones. If an unauthorized service center fixes the home button, the user gets Error 53 and essentially loses everything on his or her phone.
But it's actually a smart security measure from Apple designed to protect all the personal stuff you keep on your iPhone tied to Touch ID like credit cards in Apple Pay.
Imagine the alternative: a bad guy gets your iPhone, installs his own Touch ID sensor in it, and gets access to everything on your phone from Apple Pay to your camera roll of selfies. That would stink.
So, what should you do?
If your iPhone breaks, it's always best to go to the Apple Store to get it fixed. If you don't live near an Apple Store, you can call Apple's customer support to find an authorized repair shop. And if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can always mail your phone back to Apple to get it repaired.
On the off chance you can't do any of that, you can call Apple if you get the Error 53 message and see if they can work with you to restore your device. But no guarantees.
An Apple spokesperson provided Tech Insider with the following statement, which echoes much of what you just read:
We take customer security very seriously and Error 53 is the result of security checks designed to protect our customers. 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. This security measure is necessary to protect your device and prevent a fraudulent Touch ID sensor from being used. If a customer encounters Error 53, we encourage them to contact Apple Support.