Technology

Beware of ‘untrusted certificate' websites

Q: My Google Chrome Web browser occasionally gives me a warning about an “untrusted certificate” when I visit websites. There is a choice to “block” or “allow,” and I always press block, but I continue to get the warning. What’s causing this?

Calvin Helmer, Denham Springs, La.

A: The warning means that your browser isn’t sure if the website you are about to visit is authentic or a malicious fake.

These warnings occur if you visit a questionable “secure” website. Online banks, merchants and email providers use secure websites for website logins and financial transactions. Those websites, whose addresses begin with “https” (“s” means secure), safeguard personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers by encrypting them, which turns the data into unreadable code.

What makes a supposedly secure website questionable? The lack of a valid digital certificate, a code given to websites by an outside licensing authority. The certificate is a widely accepted proof that the site is authentic. If the certificate is invalid, has expired or isn’t working properly, your browser warns you that the site’s identity can’t be verified, meaning it’s “untrusted.”

While the website is most likely to blame, there’s a small possibility that it’s your PC. Check the PC’s calendar date setting to make sure it’s correct. If it’s set to the wrong date, the website’s certificate might appear to be expired even though it isn’t.

If your PC’s date setting is correct, the website is the issue. Perhaps the site is legitimate, but hasn’t kept its certificate current or has a technical problem. Or maybe the site is a malicious fake trying to steal your personal information.

To be absolutely safe, don’t visit any website for which you receive an “untrusted certificate” warning. If you choose to visit the website anyway, don’t provide it with any personal information. Either way, before choosing to “block” or “allow” a website, put a check in front of “remember action for this certificate.” That way you will only be asked to make the decision once.

Q: I tried fixing my Windows 10 Edge browser using the solution in your column (see tinyurl.com/j9k468h), but it won’t work with my Windows PE. What can I do?

Charles Stickney, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A: Because your PC lacks a full version of Windows 10, you can’t make changes to it.

Windows PE is a miniature operating system that’s designed to install or repair Windows 10 on a PC. Windows PE has advantages: It can run basic tasks on a PC, and requires less than 1 gigabyte of memory, which means it can be run from the PC’s random-access memory (RAM) computer chips rather than having to be installed on the hard disk.

But it was never intended to be a full-fledged operating system and has built-in limitations. For example, each time it restarts it loses any changes you’ve made to it. For details, see tinyurl.com/zqkhbkj. To see if your PC meets the requirements for running a full version of Windows 10, see tinyurl.com/p7ddfr5.

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