June 28, 2022
'Blackout the Internet': How to Avoid Problems with Old Cell Phones and Computers |  Technique

‘Blackout the Internet’: How to Avoid Problems with Old Cell Phones and Computers | Technique

You don’t have to worry about running out of internet on your cell phone or computer today, September 30th…unless you have an old and out of date cell phone.

On Thursday (9/30), an essential item for mobile network connectivity, MAC or Windows computers, Internet browsers, and even video game consoles will expire. This is what some sectors have called the “internet blackout”..

Responsible for this is the “root certificate” which has a very technical name (IdenTrust DST Root CA X3) which expires September 30th at 14:01 GMT or 11:01 GMT.

Root certificates act as the main link between a device, be it a cell phone or computer, and the Internet. It is an element that ensures that communications are secure and encrypted.

Updating the device system (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) allows these certificates to be updated, where those that are about to expire are replaced by new ones.

Failure to do so has consequences.

“At least something is going to go wrong,” computer security expert Scott Helm warns on his blog.

But who can be affected?

Nothing will happen to the vast majority of devices. But those with outdated operating systems may not be able to connect to the network.

This includes factory computer systems that never connect to the Internet, smartphones that never connect to Wi-Fi, or that have not been updated in the past five years.

This is because there are many computers that connect to the Internet only through Let’s Encrypt’s IdenTrust DST Root CA X3 certificate, which was issued in 2000 and which expires on September 30th.

Here are some of the organs and systems that can be affected:

It is not clear if devices such as Blackberry phones (versions earlier than 10.3.3) and Kindles below version 3.4.1 will be affected.

Why do certificates expire?

There are public and private certification bodies, known as CAs, which are responsible for verifying the security and connections of Internet devices.

As a precaution, certificates come with an expiration date. These entities are responsible for renewing or canceling their validity. As Helme explains, “Once that root CA expires, clients such as web browsers will no longer trust certificates issued by this CA”.

Certificate renewal is distributed with device system updates. In the past, this caused problems for computers with older operating systems.

On May 30, 2020, expert says, a certificate from AddTrust expired, causing problems for Roku’s online TV system services and online payment platforms Stripe and Spreedly.

The best way to avoid this kind of issue is to install system updates frequently.

See digital security tips:

5 safety tips for your digital life