When you’re browsing the Internet, you may come across a worrying message from Google Chrome. This message will say that “your connection is not private” and that hackers may be watching what you do. While this does sound scary at first, it doesn’t mean you’re about to be hacked! So what does it mean, and what should you do when you see it?
What Does “Your Connection Is Not Private” Mean?
When this error message appears, it means that Google Chrome expected the connection to be private; however, for some reason, it wasn’t. This error happens because there’s something wrong with the website’s certificate.
By default, websites use the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to talk to your computer. This works fine when you’re just browsing the Web normally, but it’s not great for doing secure transactions. This is because HTTP isn’t encrypted, so a hacker can look at the data and steal information from it.
To solve the snooping, secure websites use HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This encrypts the communications between you and the website so hackers can’t see your personal information.
Because HTTPS is used to identify legitimate companies, the business has to apply for a certificate to use HTTPS. For example, the Bank of America has HTTPS because they asked for a certificate for their business, and it was accepted. If a scammer tries to make a fake Bank of America website, they need an HTTPS certificate to look authentic. If they apply for one, the issuing body will deny them as the scammer’s website is fake.
You can see a website’s certificate by clicking on the padlock next to the website’s URL, then clicking “Certificate.”
This is all well and good, but if there’s something wrong with the certificate, it means the website can’t use HTTPS any more. This is why Chrome warns you that the connection is not private; it should be, but something went wrong.
What Can Go Wrong with Certificates?
Now we that know why the error is appearing, we should look at what triggers it. There are a few ways that a certificate becomes invalid, prompting Chrome to show you this method.
First, the website may be legitimate, but its certificate is no longer there. This may be due to it expiring, as certificates need renewing every so often. If the website host has been misbehaving, the issuing body may revoke the certificate, which causes the same error to appear.
It may also be because hackers are meddling with how the certificate works. For instance, they may set up a proxy server between you and your destination. When you go to connect, the proxy server will attempt to forge fake certificates so they can read your HTTPS data. Google Chrome will catch this trick and warn you that a hacker tampered with the certificate during the connection process.
You can see some of these errors by using BadSSL. The website itself is safe, but they have tests to ensure your browser can defend you versus online threats. At the top left you can test different certificate issues and see these errors for yourself.
How to Fix the “Your Connection Is Not Private” Error
As you may expect, this problem may not be something you can fix on your end. However, there is a chance that there was a glitch during the connection process, so it’s worth trying a few things to ensure it’s not you.
Refresh the Page
First, try refreshing the webpage. Sometimes data gets a bit jumbled as you browse, and a legitimate certificate gets flagged as suspicious. A refresh or two would clear things up if this did occur.
Retry the Website in Incognito Mode
Sometimes something goes wrong with your computer’s cache. When this happens, it creates a certificate conflict which prompts Chrome to warn you about the problem.
To quickly check if the cache is the problem, try the website in incognito mode. This prevents your browser from making or using cache files. If the problem goes away, clear the cache in Chrome and try again.
Double-Check Your System’s Clock
Remember when we said that certificates are valid for a certain period of time? If your system’s clock is, for some reason, before the start date or after the end date for the certificate, it will produce a warning. This happens because the server believes you’re either connecting before the certificate becomes valid or after it expires.
Double-check to make sure your clock is displaying the current time. If it isn’t, change it so that it is. Some major operating systems let you set up a clock to auto-update via the Internet, so it’s worth trying that if your clock goes weird every so often.
Leave Any Public Networks You’re Connected To
If you’re using a public network when you see this error message, it may mean attackers are operating on it. As such, it’s a good idea to leave the network and use another method. For instance, you can use your mobile data by turning your phone into a hotspot or by tethering.
Exercise Caution and Continue
If all else fails, you can still browse the website. To do this, click the “Advanced” button, then the link that says “Proceed to” followed by the website’s URL.
However, this error appeared for a reason; the data you’re about to send to the server is insecure. Never enter personal or confidential information on a website with a broken HTTPS certificate.
Shedding Light on HTTPS Errors
When you see a “Your Connection Is Not Private” error in Google Chrome, it may set off alarm bells in your head. Fortunately, most of the time you’re not under attack. For those rare moments where you are, simply closing the webpage will prevent hackers from getting your info.
On the other hand, if you are seeing the “Err_Connection_Reset” in Google Chrome, this link will show you how to fix it.