Why Millions Of Old Phones, Laptops, And Smart Gadgets Could Stop Working Later Today

The internet connectivity on older tech devices and smart gadgets could stop working on Thursday after a key digital certificate required to access websites safely expires.

Let’s Encrypt, a nonprofit organization that is the largest issuer of digital certificates — which encrypts and protects the connection between devices and websites on the internet — will be forced to expire one of its most popular digital certificates, the IdentTrust DST Root CA X3, on Sept. 30.

This means several phones, computers, video game consoles, smart gadgets, and “Internet of Things” devices bought before 2017 that use the Let’s Encrypt digital certificate in question, and haven’t updated their software since then, could face significant issues connecting to the internet.

The problem will primarily affect popular devices, such as iPhones running iOS 9 and below, Android phones running below the 2.3.6 software, Windows computers running software prior to XP SP3, Sony’s PS3, and PS4 game consoles, and the Nintendo 3DS.

“Certain older devices from 2016 and before and any gadget that has the word ‘smart’ in it that requires internet connectivity, like certain TVs, bulbs, fridges, and home control apps, could be affected by this certificate expiry,” said security researcher and cybersecurity expert Scott Helme. “It’s not clear how big of a problem this will be, but something somewhere will certainly break. There will be a bunch of fires tomorrow, and we’ll just have to put them out.”


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