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What are certificates?

Can someone explain to me in plain English what "Certificates" are? I read a posting here that said a user fixed her "slow pc" problem by updating her certificate? I also found that you can do so by going to https://getca.verisign.com/update.html
But what does it all mean? How do I know if I need to "install the new Root certificate" ?
Thanks.
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alicia1234
Asked:
alicia1234
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4auHukCommented:
Best way for you to visit Windows Update web site and install "Update Root Cerificates" from recommended updates section.
http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp

Cartificates are a sort of containers for "keys" that are used to encrypt("lock") or sign different data. Different software including OS use certificates to transfer data securely or to check if data comes from valid source and not been changed in transfer or after it was signed. Certificates also have expiration date. Recently as i heard some Verisign certificates have expired. This caused slowdowns of some software. Symantec AntiVirus as an example.

hth,
4auHuk
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alicia1234Author Commented:
Do certificates come from more than one place? If I update certificates from Microsoft's site, do I also need to update from Verisign? Are there different sets of certificates?

I use Windows Update religiously ... so then am I covered? Would it come through as a "critical" or "recommended" update?
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Antowh76Commented:
Certificates are documents that assure you about the identity of the owner of something (email, web site etc), the identity of a computer, the time an action took place, protect something by manipulation (software, document, email, etc).
If you experience dialog box containing messages as follow: "the security certificate has expired or is not yet valid" or "the security certificate was issued by a company that is not trusted", it could be necessary to install a new root certificate.
A root certificate is an unsigned or self-signed X.509 public key certificate and is implicity trusted.
At the beginning of this year, pc using software from symantec, suffered from a slow down caused by a out of the date root certificate (you can find more informations in symantec and verisign web sites). The problem could had been fixed updating the root certificate. Maybe this is the same problem that the user whom you have read the post had had...

I hope it's clear enough (sorry for my english that probably won't be perfect...)

Regards, Antonio
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Antowh76Commented:
Certificate are released by certification authority (verysign for example), or by the owner of the signed obj (software for example).
Have a look at control pannel\users and pw advanced, certificates. It could be useful to clear your mind (I'm assuming you are using win2000 pro).
It would come through as a "recommended" update.

Antonio
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alicia1234Author Commented:
Thanks. Points to Antowh76 because his answers provided more detail.
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4auHukCommented:
fairly enough :)
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Antowh76Commented:
Thanks :-)

Best regards, Antonio
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