When trying to visit a website, you may sometimes see a frightening browser warning – “Your connection is not private”. This error indicates there is a problem with the site’s SSL certificate configuration that is preventing a secure HTTPS connection.
In this guide, we will explain what causes this error, how to diagnose and troubleshoot the issue, and the steps you can take to resolve it.
What Does “Your Connection is Not Private” Mean?
The “your connection is not private” message appears when your web browser detects an issue with a website’s Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption certificate during the handshake process. TLS certificates help establish secure, encrypted HTTPS connections and validate the identity of websites.
Some potential reasons your browser may block the connection and show this warning include:
- Expired Certificate – The website’s TLS/SSL certificate has expired and needs to be renewed.
- Domain Mismatch – The certificate is not validated for the domain you are trying to visit.
- Untrusted Certificate – The certificate is signed by an unrecognized or untrusted certificate authority (CA).
- Revoked Certificate – The TLS certificate has been revoked by the issuing CA, meaning it should no longer be trusted.
- Incomplete Chain of Trust – The intermediate certificates linking the domain certificate to the root CA are missing.
- HTTPS Protocol Errors – Issues with HTTPS implementation on the web server side can also trigger warnings.
So in summary, the “your connection is not private” message indicates your browser does not trust the website’s certificate and cannot establish a secure connection to the server.
Troubleshooting the “Not Private” Warning
Here are steps to help diagnose the specific issue triggering the “your connection is not private” warning:
Check the Full Error Message
Expand the browser error to see the complete diagnostic details. Look for specifics like expired certificate dates, mismatched domain names, unknown CAs, protocol errors like DNS or handshake failures, etc. This information will point to the culprit.
Examine the Certificate
Click the “Not private” or “Certificate error” link in the browser to inspect the site’s certificate. Compare the domain name, validity dates, issuer details, signature algorithms, and other metadata against what is expected for that site.
Use Online SSL/TLS Test Tools
Run the website through validators like the SSL Labs Server Test to analyze the TLS configuration against best practices. The detailed report can pinpoint expired, mismatched, or untrusted certificates and other problems.
Review Trusted Root CAs
Make sure the root CA shown in the certificate error is present in your browser or operating system’s trusted root certificate store. If not, it will not trust certificates issued by that CA.
Check Intermediate Certificates
Incomplete certificate chains missing intermediate CA certificates can break the chain of trust. Use certificate analysis tools to inspect the full chain.
How to Fix “Your Connection is Not Private” Errors
Once you’ve diagnosed the specific issue, here are ways to resolve some common “not private” errors:
Renew Expired Certificates
If the website certificate is expired, the site owner will need to purchase an updated certificate from their SSL/TLS vendor and install it on their server following the certificate authority’s renewal process.
Install Correct Domain Certificate
If the domain name/hostname does not match the issued certificate, the owner will need to get a certificate issued for the correct domain and install it.
Install Required Intermediate Certificates
Any missing intermediate certificates in the certificate chain will need to be installed on the webserver to complete the chain of trust between the site certificate and root CA.
Install Root CA Certificate
For untrusted root CA errors, install the required root certificate into your OS or browser trust stores. Many CAs have instructions on their websites.
Remove/Replace Revoked Certificate
Have the website owner get a new certificate to replace any revoked TLS certificates no longer considered valid.
Update Website HTTPS Configuration
Incorrect HTTPS implementation on the web server side could require TLS configuration tweaks like ensuring proper protocol and cipher suite support.
Clear Browser Cache
Clear your browser cache entirely after making certificate updates on the server side to force the loading of the new certificate.
In some cases, you may need to report issues to the website owner if they are related to the server configuration and request they resolve them by updating certificates or HTTPS settings.
Best Practices to Avoid “Not Private” Warnings
Here are some tips to prevent “your connection is not private” errors in the future:
- Use Trusted Certificates – Only use SSL/TLS certificates issued by major trusted CAs like Digicert, Comodo, Symantec, GoDaddy, etc. They should be trusted by all browsers/devices.
- Renew Certificates Annually – Set reminders to renew certificates at least every 12 months to prevent expiration, ideally with some buffer time.
- Monitor Expiration Dates – Use tools to monitor upcoming certificate expirations so you can replace them in time.
- Match Certificates to Domain – Always request certificates matched to the exact fully qualified domain name they will secure.
- Maintain Full Certificate Chains – Install intermediate certificates from the CA to complete the chain of trust.
- Keep Software Up to Date – Maintain current browsers, operating systems, and SSL/TLS software versions to ensure compatibility.
- Validate Proper Server Configuration – Check that encryption protocols and cipher suites are up-to-date. Use diagnostics tools to validate.
Following best practices for TLS/SSL configuration, certificate issuance and renewal, and website HTTPS implementation will help avoid those scary “your connection is not private” warnings!
The “your connection is not private” browser error indicates an issue with the website’s TLS/SSL certificate or HTTPS configuration that prevents establishing a secure encrypted connection.
By troubleshooting the specific problem using browser diagnostics, SSL analyzers, and other tools, you can determine issues like expired/invalid certificates, domain mismatches, incomplete chains, and more.
Once identified, problems can be fixed by updating certificates, implementing missing intermediate CAs, installing required root CAs, and correcting server configurations. Following SSL/TLS best practices can help avoid connection not private errors. Resolving these warnings is necessary for users to enjoy safe, trusted browsing experiences.