Older smart tech could lose internet access forever – here’s what to do

Older smartphones

That old laptop sitting in a drawer, vintage PlayStation or early smart TV could lose internet access forever, starting September 30th. This is because to communicate with secure sites on the internet, it may use a 20 year old Certificate Authority (CA) that’s being replaced with a new version.

Our internet-connected devices need Certificates to access secure web pages, streaming services and financial sites. And if the Certificate on our device isn’t up to date, it will no longer be ‘trusted’ and able to use them.

Older smart tech at risk so far includes:

  • Apple iDevices running iOS 9 or earlier.
  • Apple macOS before 2016 or macOS 10.12.0.
  • Android phones and tablets with Gingerbread 2.3.6 or earlier. These devices may continue to work for some time.
  • Windows XP SP3 or earlier PCs
  • BlackBerry devices with a version lower than 10.3.3.
  • Play station 3
  • PlayStation 4 with an operating system before version 5.0.
  • Nintendo 3DS.
  • BlackBerry devices with versions less than 10.3.3.
  • Other older smart tech may require internet access like security cameras, speakers, streaming/set-top boxes, TVs, etc.

As Certificates are usually managed by the device’s operating system, they get replaced when you apply updates. So, this issue only applies to devices that have never been updated since purchase or not updated since around 2017. If your older smart tech has received software or ‘firmware’ updates, you should be fine.

It is not a unique problem like Y2K – planes won’t fall out of the sky

CAs expire all the time, and software updates fix that. Without it the device keeps working – it just cannot access HTTPS secure websites that are now the standard on the web.

The real issue is that older smart tech manufacturers seldom bother to update – they ‘sell and forget.’ You can be sure that these are at the lower cost-end of the masses of generic TVs, security cameras etc. It should not happen with well-known brands, although some brands only have a set support period that may force you to buy new kit.

How to fix some older smart tech

If a fix is for a critical, irreplaceable device, a qualified ‘geek’ may be able to remove the IdenTrust DST Root CA X3 root certificate and manually install the ISRG Root X1 root certificate. That is, if the older tech has USB or Ethernet/Wi-Fi and you have root/admin password access. That is a costly exercise and beyond Joe and Jane Average.

The moral of the story is that if you have old smart tech that you haven’t updated for a long time, there is a good chance that it won’t be able to visit secure sites on the web, stream content, etc. And because your device is so out of date, you probably can’t update it via the web either.