Expired Certificate Causes Global Gmail Glitch

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Google neglected to renew a key certificate, causing error messages for the ‘majority’ of Gmail users over the weekend

Google said its Gmail email service is now operating normally after an expired security certificate caused disruption over the Easter weekend.

“The problem with Gmail should be resolved,” Google stated on the Gmail status page. “We apologise for the inconvenience.”

Expired certificate

On Saturday users received error messages when trying to access Gmail through third-party clients such as Outlook or Mac OS X’s Mail client, and when sending messages via Gmail’s servers.

securityThe problem occurred because Google had neglected to renew a security certificate – more specifically, an intermediate certificate authority operated by Google and termed Google Internet Certificate Authority G2.

A number of other Google certificates depend upon this certificate, which was in turn issued by GeoTrust Global Certificate Authority.

The issue was resolved around two and a half hours after it was first noticed, and is now set to expire at the end of next year, Google said.

On its status page, Google said the problem had affected “a majority of users” and could cause “unexpected behaviour” when using Gmail.

Security weaknesses

The issue follows a series of glitches that have highlighted weaknesses in the SSL security architecture upon which the Internet relies for most secure communications.

Ironically, Google only last week said its Chrome browser would no longer recognise certificates issued by a Chinese authority as a result of one of these incidents, which involved an intermediate certificate issued to a Cairo-based company. Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, followed suit. The certificate authority involved, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), said the decision was “unacceptable and unintelligible”.

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