Older smartphones running an outdated version of the Android operating system will stop being able to run certain websites next year.
That’s because of an issue arising around SSL certificates, which are used to correctly display HTTPS websites.
Certificates are issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) and since much of the web now runs securely on HTTPS, having them on your device is pretty vital.
Five years ago, a CA called Let’s Encrypt, launched and signed a cross-signature agreement with another CA called IdenTrust. This meant that all the main platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux were able to use them in their corresponding browsers.
Now, Let’s Encrypt has indicated it’s not renewing the agreement and that could leave plenty of older Android devices out in the cold. They’ll be unable to upgrade to the latest certificate and therefore not load securely encrypted websites.
‘The DST Root X3 root certificate that we relied on to get us off the ground is going to expire – on September 1, 2021. Fortunately, we’re ready to stand on our own, and rely solely on our own root certificate,’ explained Let’s Encrypt in a blog post.
‘However, this does introduce some compatibility woes. Some software that hasn’t been updated since 2016 (approximately when our root was accepted to many root programs) still doesn’t trust our root certificate, ISRG Root X1.
‘Most notably, this includes versions of Android prior to 7.1.1. That means those older versions of Android will no longer trust certificates issued by Let’s Encrypt.’
In short, if you’re using Android devices running software older than 2016’s Android 7.1.1. you could be in trouble next year.
The only real workaround is to use Mozilla’s Firefox browser which uses its own certificate store that bypasses the problem. However, since many apps are effectively just launchers for websites, these will still run into problems.
Many of the noted Android manufacturers will have kept on top of software updates, but this could still catch out millions of old Android phones around the world that have neglected to be updated.