Problems with Your Computer?

Did you have problems updating your Anti-Virus definitions? Were Microsoft Word or Excel slow to start? Have a little more trouble than usual surfing some Web sites? Trouble installing some software? Well, you weren't alone. A Verisign blunder managed to render many computers, web sites and applications unusable Thursday.

Digital certificates are used to both authenticate a computer on the Internet and to encrypt the traffic between one computer and another. One of the Verisign root certificates, a certificate used to sign other certificates, expired on Thursday.

That, in and of itself, wasn't the problem as all certificates expire. However, when this certificate expired, every application in the world which used the certificate checked another Verisign server to see of the certificate had been revoked. That server was not prepared for the load.

One of the more notable applications affected was Symantec's Norton AntiVirus. Since Norton AntiVirus has hooks into Microsoft Office products, including Word and Excel, many Microsoft Office products started very slowly or not at all. In addition, Norton AntiVirus is often configured to scan network activity. As a result, network operations may have been sluggish.

Applications written in Java, a ubiquitous programming language on the Internet, were also affected. This includes both client side software and many Web application servers. As a result, some of the Web sites you surfed on Thursday may have been having trouble because of the Verisign server issue.

Things should be returning to normal for most users. If you are still having problems, visit Windows Update. Scan for updates. In the list of non-critical updates, make sure you install the "Root Certificate Update." If it's not listed, then you probably already have it installed and your computer is suffering from another, probably unrelated problem.

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