free secure email certificate

I first learned about digital certificates back in the late 90’s when I worked for a PKI (public key infrastructure) security department. The ones we all have experienced are those SSL certificates behind the websites that we make credit card transactions online — when you sign into a secured website, that little lock icon shows up in your status line. There’s an email counterpart too. In this day and age of spams and viruses propagating by email, digital certificates can provide assurance and authentication cheaply (read: free).

For the past few years, I had used free Thawte personal email certificates to occasionally sign my emails or encrypt my emails — to insure the email came from me, or to insure the email content is illegible to someone who might intercept it.

But I forgot my password, and it might take a while to get my account restored and tech support actually quickly responded. The other option is to pay $19.95 per year to Verisign for theirs, but I don’t use it enough.

So I found another certificate authority that offers free fully S/MIME compliant email certificates — from Comodo Group. Comodo is offering free secure email certificates for personal use! Now I can send emails with my Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and digitally sign it — so you know it’s from me and not a spammer. Or, for added security and reassurance, I can digitally encrypt an email — so I can feel a little better about my email getting to the right people.

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  1. Patrick says:

    I have recently found another free Secure e-mail certificate provider, and it can be found at http://www.certifyid.com.
    Patrick

  2. djchuang says:

    Patrick,

    Thanks for the tip! certifyid.com does offer free secure email certificates, but its Certificate Authority (CA) is not pre-recognized in the common Web browsers we use today, so users have to install the CA’s root certificate to enable trusting it, and email certificates generated based on that CA. It’s one additional step that may confuse some novice users. Pre-recognized CAs like thawte.com and comodogroup.com gets a head start by making it one-step easier.

  3. Matt Dawson says:

    There are a number of other free certificate providers available. I’ve just posted a review comparing 9 of them here: http://tech.niques.info/choosing-free-digital-certificate/ . It includes the details of the relevant root certificates so you can check whether your email client/browser includes the root certificates already.

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