Fix a “Safari Can’t Verify the Identity of the Website…” Error Message

Mar 26, 2014 - 7 Comments

Safari While Safari usually works just fine for browsing the web, there are times you may encounter a persistent error message about verifying the identity of a particular website. The precise error message may read something like this, and appear on almost any site, where “URL” is a variety of domains:

“Safari can’t verify the identity of the website “URL”

The certificate for this website is invalid. You might be connecting to a website that is pretending to be “URL”, which could put your confidential information at risk. Would you like to connect to the website anyway?”

First, this may be a completely valid security warning, and you’ll want to click on the “Show Certificate” button to attempt to verify everything looks as it should yourself (the domain you are trying to visit is trusted, matches, etc). On the other hand, this may appear as an erroneous message from Safari too, and that’s what we’re looking to troubleshoot here.

For a common example, you may find this alert popping up for Facebook related domains while visiting other sites on the web, in such a case, the error may read and look something like the following:

Safari can't verify identity of the website error

“Safari can’t verify the identity of the website “static.ak.facebook.com”

The certificate for this website is invalid. You might be connecting to a website that is pretending to be “static.ak.facebook.com”, which could put your confidential information at risk. Would you like to connect to the website anyway?”

This can happen with almost any website, probably because of the ubiquitous Facebook “Like” and “Share” buttons found all over the web, which may lead users to see the certificate error when they’re somewhere completely different, like IMDB or NYTimes.

Again, you’ll want to confirm the certificate is valid yourself before doing anything else, but if you’re convinced this is a client side error (that is, you or someone you are troubleshooting Safari for), you can often resolve it with the methods detailed below.

This is aimed at resolving erroneous “can’t verify” messages from Safari only in situations where you trust all sites and domains listed, yet still receive the error message. This should be not used to ignore a valid security alert.

Update Safari to the Latest Version

You’ll want to do this before anything else, update to the latest version of Safari that is supported by your Macs version of OS X. You can check this by:

  • Go to the  Apple menu and choose “Software Update”
  • Install any and all updates available for Safari

This is important because antiquated versions of Safari may have a bug, flaw, or unpatched security issue that is causing the certificate verification issue to be triggered. Many users find that simply updating Safari fixes the problem entirely.Optionally, you may want to try clearing cookies for the impacted domains too, but it shouldn’t be necessary.

Still having issues on the newest Safari build? Now let’s get into a bit more technical troubleshooting…

Fix Invalid Certificate Errors by Repairing Keychain

The first method to resolve an erroneous certificate error is to turn to Keychain Access, and then verify and repair the certificates contained for the active user account in Mac OS X. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Quit out of Safari
  2. Hit Command+Spacebar to bring up Spotlight search, then type “Keychain Access” and hit return to launch the app
  3. Go to the “Keychain Access” menu and select “Keychain First Aid” from the menu list
  4. Enter the current user password, then check the “Verify” box, followed by choosing the “Start” button
  5. Next, choose the “Repair” radio box and then “Start” again
  6. Repair a Keychain in Mac OS X

  7. Relaunch Safari and visit the website(s) again

Things should now be back to normal and Safari should no longer throw the “can’t verify identity” error when visiting websites.

Repairing the keychain is a common troubleshooting technique when various login details and account specifics are not being remembered properly in a variety of Mac apps or system tasks, even including wi-fi routers and persistent wi-fi network login requests, and it usually the resolves such problems.

Confirm the System Time is Correct

If you’re still having the problem, your time settings may be off. Yes, time, as in the clock on the computer. If that’s the problem, it’s quite easy to resolve:

  1. Be sure the Mac has active internet access, this is necessary to retrieve accurate date and time info from Apple servers
  2. Quit Safari
  3. Open the  Apple menu and go to System Preferences
  4. Choose “Date & Time” and check the box for “Set date and time automatically” (if the box is already checked, uncheck it, wait 10 seconds, then check it again)
  5. Relaunch Safari

You should be good to go with no more verification errors. This works for situations where the system time is reporting as vastly different than what is expected from the remote server, like if a computer is reporting itself from the future (sorry McFly).

Do you have another solution for resolving erroneous verification errors from Safari? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Troubleshooting

7 Comments

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  1. Jason says:

    At certain places, like secure business networks, they use proxy servers that scan https traffic – to do this, the proxy servers become a “man in the middle” of your SSL session.

    For the machines that are in the corporate domain – this is ok, they already trust the proxy(s), but if you’re using a non-corporate laptop or one that doesn’t have the configuration set to implicitly trust this proxy – https sites will generate this alarm.

    Be especially wary of this type of alert on public wifi… someone is pretending to be your SSL session to your bank, Facebook, or google – just waiting for your personal information if you click “continue”, “accept” or “trust”

  2. You guys do a great job and it is much appreciated. Thanks for these pieces, and feel free to kick it up a notch for more advanced users periodically.

  3. Ron says:

    Anyone tried this with http://etrade.com, Safari is the only browser that complains but nothing I’ve done has cleared the error. Thoughts?

  4. Alee says:

    It is great and simple advice easy to follow the steps and slove the problms.
    Thanks lot

  5. hassan says:

    Very helpful thanks. Appreciate it!!!

  6. Mark Pubate says:

    Thanks for the last method (changing time), worked like charm for me and saved my life!!!

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