There's no easy way to break this to anyone who has been affected by the dreaded Error 53 alert: you're stuffed; at least your phone is.
The "malfunction" is tied to the hardware used in later model iPhones and iPads. It's part of security measures Apple put in place and which is connected to the Touch ID feature Apple began rolling out in 2014.
To say that users are not happy about it is an understatement because if it happens, it's potentially irreversible and your data on your phone is lost and your device is cactus. And except in a few cases, it's probably not covered by warranty.
What is Error 53?
Error 53 is linked to Touch ID, the feature in late model iPhones or iPads which allows you to unlock your device and make purchases on iTunes or the App Store using your fingerprint.
But it only appears to be happening to phones which have been repaired by a third party service (ie not by Apple) AND when the devices' operating system has been upgraded to the latest iOS 9 version.
There have been reports of devices being repaired months earlier and working fine before suddenly encountering the error message and being "bricked" (disabled) after the phone is connected to a computer to perform a software update.
Which devices are affected?
To date, the error has only been reported by owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the model of the iPhone released in 2014.
It only affects iPhone which have had third party repairs or replacements made to the home button or the internal cable which is attached to that button.
But the same fingerprint security technology is used on the iPhone 5s and the latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. As well, the Touch ID technology is used on the iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 4.
According to third party repair specialist iFixit, the jury is still out on the 6s and 6s Plus, which have a different cable design.
According to Slate, the later model iOS phones have special security codes which need to be reset if the physical link between the Touch ID and the motherboard is disconnected.
While home button and home button cable repairs are the main source of the grief, you can get a similar result if the motherboard needs to be changed during a cracked-screen replacement.
And just damaging the home button / cable may also result in a bricked iPhone 6.
Are Australian user affected?
Absolutely. See the complaints on the Whirlpool forums dating back to July, 2015.
This is the text of a response Apple has been giving:
"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."
Will Apple resolve this problem long-term?
Apple has given no indication yet that Error 53 is in any way a bug or glitch that it intends to correct. Suspicious minds might think that this is being done to ensure that Apple can extend its monopoly over the iPhone ecosystem, to include the increasingly lucrative third-party market in repair.
The third party market sprung up in the first place because of Apple's premium-priced repair service. While Apple does have an effective repair and replacement service, this has to be done through its Apple Store network. While there are now hundred of these stores worldwide, they are generally located in popular retail areas in major urban centres in the so-called developed world.