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One day until millions of iPhones, Macs stop working

·2-min read
Hands holding and typing on iPhone.
Find out how the digital certificate expiry will affect you. (Image: Getty).

Millions of old devices will stop working on Thursday as a crucial digital certificate expires, removing access to the internet.

The expiry will mean affected devices will be unable to install updates of newer certificates allowing access to the internet.

Every time a user visits a website starting with HTTPS, they are able to do so securely due to a certificate issued. Certificates, which are issued by trusted authorities, are used to encrypt the connections between devices and the internet.

The problem for these devices is that the Let’s Encrypt digital certificate in question was used in electronic devices prior to 2017 but will expire on 30 September.

After this date, devices will not trust certificates issued by this authority.

Older MacBooks, iPhones and PlayStation 3 consoles are now at risk.

In particular, iPhone users with operating systems prior to iOS 10 may face issues, along with devices running older versions of macOS 2016 and Windows XP.

Older smart TVs and set-top boxes and Nintendo 3DS could also be affected by the certificate expiry.

Usually when a certificate expires, there is a new certificate that replaces it.

However, in this instance, the certificate has been used since 2000 which poses some problems. Essentially, devices that haven’t been designed to constantly update won’t be able to access the new certificate authority.

“At least something, somewhere is going to break,” security researcher Scott Helme summarised.

What can you do?

People running Android (Nougat) 7.1.1 are advised to install Firefox to get around the expiry.

“For an Android phone’s built-in browser, the list of trusted root certificates comes from the operating system — which is out of date on these older phones,” Let’s Encrypt said.

“However, Firefox is currently unique among browsers — it ships with its own list of trusted root certificates.”

For everyone else, the most simple thing users can do is to update their devices.

However, Helme warned, that may not cut it for some older systems. It may be time to upgrade devices.

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