Ever Wondered What Those Android Security Certificate Errors Mean?

A security certificate error sounds like something serious, like a major breach of security, but it isn’t always as bad as it sounds. If you’ve ever seen one and are wondering what an error like this means, the truth is it can actually mean a few different things. In general, it’s a warning to show you that something is wrong with either the website you’re trying to access, or your device.

Related: 17 Security Tips for Smarter Smartphone Banking (Android) 

This means you’re left with something you need to fix on your end, a potentially malicious website, or just a system bug that will pass with time and a quick fix. Being able to know the difference between these three things is key, and it’s thankfully easy to understand, and even fix.

What Causes a Security Certificate Error?

Like I mentioned above, there are three main reasons why you’ll run into a security certificate error on Android. However, between all three reasons the core issue is the same. Something with either the website itself, or your Android sets off a red flag that triggers the error.

A security certificate error basically serves as a warning sign to let you know that your private data isn’t secure on this webpage. Security certificate errors are triggered by false flags all the time, but let’s go into how those flags are triggered first before we fix the issue.


Issue #1: The Website has Changed

Sometimes the issue is as simple as the website changing something server side. This could mean they’ve changed where they’re hosted, are currently moving, is down for a little while, is in the process of updating something, or has just recently updated.

In most cases you’ll see this for popular websites that usually get a ton of traffic on a daily basis. In a few minutes or less, the error should usually pass, just so long as you’re sure you’re on the right website.

When you see one of these errors on a website you normally trust, make sure the URL is still the same as before in your address bar. If you notice any changes, try entering the URL for the website you’re accessing directly.


Issue #2: Your Android Fails to Communicate

Thankfully, most issues with your Android failing to obtain a security certificate is easily fixable. On PC this usually means your date and time isn’t set correctly, or your browser isn’t up to date. This issue extends to Android.

This is another issue that you don’t have to worry about for very long since it isn’t a malicious one. It’s the next cause that you need to watch out for, and take care to notice whenever it happens.


Issue #3: A Website is Incorrect / or is No Longer Safe

The last of the three issues is the most malicious and what will give you reason to pause, and most likely hit the back button as soon as you can. While you can ignore a certificate error under most circumstances, this third reason is why you shouldn’t.

When a website is impersonating another, or isn’t secure enough for a certificate, express extreme caution. If you’re visiting a website you’ve never been to before and see this error, it’s better to avoid the site entirely. If you’re on a website you visit frequently, double check your URL to make sure you haven’t been redirected.

Unfortunately, for a potentially malicious certificate error like this there isn’t a fix. However, you can figure out if your security certificate error isn’t malicious by going through the steps to fix one normally.

How do You Fix These Errors?

Thankfully, fixing a security certificate error on Android is as easy as it is to do on PC. If you’re seeing security certificate errors, try these steps in this order to resolve the problem:

1. Refresh the Webpage

Sometimes all it takes is a quick refresh to clear up the issue between the site and your Android. It doesn’t work all the time, but it’s always worth a shot to try before you move on to something else.

2. A Soft Reset

If resetting the webpage didn’t work, what about your Android? Power off your Android completely and let it sit for at least fifteen seconds.

After you’ve done then, turn it back on and try to load the web page again.

3. Update Your Browser

Now that you’ve refreshed everything it’s time to rule out every problem you can. Load the Google Play Store and see if your selected browser has an update available. If it does, download it and then try the web page again.

4. Enter the URL Again

If you’ve been loading the webpage from a bookmark, or your history, enter the URL directly into your address bar this time. This way you can be sure that you aren’t being redirected to a site that has the security certificate error.

5. Use a Different Data Connection

If you’re getting the error over Wi-Fi, switch to mobile data, or even to another Wi-Fi network. If you’re using mobile data when you get the error, switch over to Wi-Fi. If you manage to get the error on both there are still two more steps you can try to rid yourself of it.

6. Reset Your Date and Time

One of the most common ways to resolve this problem if nothing else works, is to reset your date and time. If you’re try to access a webpage with the incorrect date or time, you’ll get a security certificate error depending on the webpage.

Under your System Settings is Date & Time, but if you can access this through any other means, it’s just the same. If your date and time is set to automatically correct itself, disable those options, and enter the correct time yourself.

Otherwise, disable the automatic options, and then enable them again shortly afterwards. Once you’ve done that, try accessing the website that gave you the security certificate error again.

7. Change Your Browser

If nothing else has worked yet, the only other option is to change your browser. I personally use Firefox, but no matter what you’re using now, switch to another one and see if the problem repeats.

You don’t have to permanently switch your web browser, but at least for now, using a different one will solve the problem if nothing else has.

Can You Prevent a Security Certificate Error?

All you can do to prevent a security certificate error on your Android Is make sure everything you’re using is up to date, and your date and time is set correctly. Aside from that, all you can do is handle each security certificate error as they come.

As long as you apply the steps to fix an error whenever you come across one, you won’t have to deal with one for very long.

Conclusion

Security certificate errors are a serious warning, but they aren’t always correct. Sometimes it’s nothing but an annoyance in the way of you and a webpage, and other times it’s steering you clear of a serious risk to your personal data. However, as long as you go through the steps to fix it, you’ll know for sure if the error is either a false flag, or a much needed warning.

If you’re still having trouble with security certificate errors and don’t know why, please leave a comment below explaining the problem.

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2 Comments

  1. I have an HTC 610 phone. Recently (July 25th), I stopped receiving emails. I can get on the internet and do most everything. It used to be also that I could choose WiFi setting or mobile data to access my email. When I would select either one of those it would automatically let me know that I had mail and how many. I have gone on only 1 website during that time period that was safe and after clicking on it – the following popped up: a certificate warning that said “unable to verify this site’s security certificate. Do you want to trust it anyway? Doing so could expose this device to security risks in the future and is not recommended”. Of course I did not select trust. I have called AT&T and several representatives tell me that they are aware of the issue. One tells me of a date (a week ago) that it would be fixed, another wasn’t sure and the 3rd said that I would get an information email soon about the problem. I have looked at the date/time and it is correct. Otherwise can access the internet. Any ideas?? Any help would greatly be appreciated.

    1. Hi, Suzanne! If it’s a known issue for AT&T then there’s not much you can do until they fix it. You may want to call again to get a new estimate for when it’ll be fixed, but otherwise wait it out and use your web browser or a third party app to access your email in the meantime.

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