Problems with Website Security Certificates? Here’s What You Need to Know

What is it and how can I fix it?

problems with website security certificates

As you browse online, you’ll likely encounter problems with website security certificates. In some cases, you might not even know there is a problem, but other times, you’ll see an error message. By understanding what these security certificates are and how they work, you’ll better understand how to troubleshoot the problems you find.

Understanding Website Security Certificates

Website security certificates are designed to protect you from malicious sites that try to steal your information. These certificates indicate that a site uses special encryption to prevent open access to data transmitted between you and the website. It’s an extra layer of security and essential for any site that requires you to input personal data, such as payment information.

Recognizing Security Certificates

The great thing about these certificates, also known as SSL certificates, is it’s easy to tell when a website has one. Look at the address bar in your browser and you’ll see https instead of http. The s represents a security certificate.

Another indicator is a closed padlock just to the left or right of the URL. Depending on the connection, you might see the word secure for a safe connection or something else if there are problems with website security certificates. Both indicators also appear on mobile browsers.

For more details about a website security certificate, click or tap on the padlock icon. Depending on your browser, you may have the option to view the certificate details, such as the issuer and the website it belongs to (this ensures it matches the site you’re visiting).

Newer versions of Chrome have hidden this feature. Click the three dot menu icon while on the website you want to check the certificate for. Go to More Tools > Developer Tools. Click the Security tab in the right pane. Click the arrows at the end of tab row if you don’t see this option. You’ll then have the option to view the certificate.

Reasons Websites Use Certificates

The simple answer is websites use website security certificates to keep user data private. However, not all sites choose to use certificates. In fact, many sites don’t actually need them. Some of the top reasons you’ll encounter certificates online include:

  • User logins
  • Financial transactions
  • Interacting on member only websites
  • Entering data on forms
  • Browsing online (some search engines encrypt your searches)

Some sites have switched to using a certificate due to Google adding https as a ranking factor. The majority of sites still haven’t switched. Out of the top 100 sites, only 25% use encryption as of 2016.

Related Read: How to Fix a Website Security Certificate in Windows 10

Problems with Website Security Certificates

When Ahrefs tested the top 10,000 domains, they found a disturbing trend. HTTPS wasn’t working correctly on over 65% of the domains. This means even though the site took steps to be more secure, the setup was wrong. For you, this means you’ll have a better chance of encountering problems with a website security certificate at some point.

“There is a problem with this website’s security certificate.”

One of the most common problems you’ll see is an error message that says there is a problem with the site’s security certificate. Please note that the wording may vary based on your browser. This error comes as a result of the browser not recognizing the certificate authority.

In order for website security certificates to work, your device must already have a root certificate present. Your browser contains a list of trusted certificate authority root certificates already. These authorities are trusted providers of certificates. When a website’s certificate doesn’t match any certificate authorities on your browser’s list, you get an error message. For instance, GlobalSign and VeriSign are two well known certificate authorities.

A few things you can do to solve this common error include:

  • Update your browser – outdated browsers may not recognize newer certificate authorities
  • Check your device’s time – the incorrect time may trigger an error message (especially true on mobile devices where you might change the time to get extra lives in a game)
  • Try a different browser – sometimes the error only happens on a specific browser
  • Replace the http with https in your browser to see if the error still occurs

If you get an error message that the site is not secure, especially when trying to log in or pay for a purchase, don’t interact with the site. This is a sign the site could be malicious or there’s a serious problem with the site’s certificate.

Using Sites Without Security Certificates

When you have problems with website security certificates, you can still interact with the site, but it’s not recommended if you’re entering any private or personal data. Remember, if a site doesn’t have a certificate or it’s not working correctly, any data you send can be intercepted by any hacker that might be listening in.

Stay safe and always check for valid website security certificates when browsing online.

Related Read: How to Fix a Website Security Certificate in Windows 10

Contribution by Crystal Crowder

About the Author

Crystal lives and breathes tech. She’s spent over a decade writing tutorials, reviews, and more on tech, business, and lifestyle sites. Her idea of fun is settling down with the latest tech and gadget news.