Forget Y2K, forget 2012, here comes an internet apocalypse that’s actually coming. Hold onto your butts for January 1st because shit’s about to get REAL.

terminator

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. For most of us the world will stay the same, but for 37 million people the internet may as well not exist once 2016 rolls around.

Why It’s Happening

If your phone is less than five years old then you’ll be fine, so upgrade junkies need not apply, but if it’s older you won’t be able to access sites like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or pretty much any site that has the green security lock or a “https” in the corner.

It all has to do with encryption.  Up until now sites have been using an algorithm called SHA-1 to tell you they’re the real deal and not a virus-riddled impostor. Unfortunately, in October researchers found that SHA-1 was no longer safe, and so no more of those certificates will be issued after 1st January 2016. The newer SHA-2 will be used instead, which most older phones simply do not have the technology to recognise.

Who’s Affected

In the developed world this won’t be much of a problem; it’ll only affect people who got their phone second-hand or your gran who hasn’t changed her phone in years. Most of you will be getting a new phone for Christmas or as part of your contract anyway.

Internet Apocalypse
“Grandson, why can’t I get Angry Birds on this?”

Live in a developing country though and it’s a whole different story. Most of the people who’ll be affected by this live in the Southern hemisphere: in Africa, South America and Asia. According to CloudFlare, the top 3 affected countries will be China, Cameroon and Yemen. Many of these people don’t have the luxury of a desktop terminal or a laptop, and so their only access to the internet will be effectively cut off.

Internet Apocalypse
Cell phones have become a lifeline for many developing countries.

It’s ironic that some of the very regions Google and Facebook are trying to bring internet to with Project Loon and Project Aquila will be the ones to have their access to these services affected.

It’s understandable that secure encryption should be a top priority, but there have to be better solutions than this abrupt cut-off – one that benefits all internet users. In a time when more and more developing countries are joining the world wide web and reaping the benefits it seems counterproductive to cut back access so abruptly.

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