Does any certificate authority provide free code signing certificates?
Short answer: No. No genuine certificate authority (CA) offers a free code signing certificate in the industry. If you see a free code signing certificate, there might be three options:
- Free trial version: You’re still going to pay for it in the future, most of the time, at a price that’s way higher than other platforms.
- Free code signing tool: This is going to be a free tool that you can utilize only after purchasing the code signing certificate. In other words, it’s not an actual certificate.
- Free code signing certificate: Congratulations! You have discovered an unauthentic, malware-friendly online platform. RUN AWAY!
If you understood the short answer, that no free code signing certificate exists on this planet earth, you can leave the article from here and buy an authentic code signing certificate. But if your inner Curious George needs more of an explanation, feel free to proceed ahead!
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Why Don’t Certificate Authorities Offer Free Code Signing Certificates?
That is an excellent question! After all, when free SSL certificates are available in the market, why not free code signing certificates?
The answer is divided into three areas of concern:
- Risk factors
- Authentication costs
Let’s understand each of these areas in detail.
You might be a software publisher who is looking for a free code signing certificate. So, in other words, you want a third-party certificate authority to vouch for your authenticity without even conducting a background check, right?
Now, use your logic. Would you vouch for a complete stranger in your real life? No way!
The same can be said about certificate authorities. A code signing certificate means a reputed CA is essentially signing off on your software with its root certificate (or any intermediate certificate from its chain) and saying that it’s trustworthy. As a result, all of the major browsers and operating systems are going to trust the software. They won’t alert the users and show a pesky security warning when users download the software. So, if anything goes wrong, it is the CA whose reputation is on stake.
The major CAs issue many thousands of code signing certificates each year. If a cyberattack occurs using an application that was signed by a CA, and if it is proven that CA hasn’t followed a proper authentication procedure, they might lose their membership from CA/B Forum. And to make matters worse, the major browsers and operating systems could deny trusting other digital certificates signed by such CAs. You might have heard about Google’s past distrust issue with a highly reputed CA’s certificates.
Our point is that no CA wants to take the risk. This is why they follow the strict authentication procedures stipulated by the CA/B Forum before issuing a code signing certificate to any software developer or publisher.
So, now, we have reached the second phase of the answer i.e., “authentication costs.”
Code signing certificates are either organization validated (OV) or extended validated (EV). The authentication process is performed manually — nothing is automated (unlike domain validated [DV] certificates).
Most certificate authorities issue code signing certificates to legally registered companies that meet certain criteria such as:
- They have a physical address,
- They have an official phone number, and
- They are registered and searchable in an online government database.
If the CA finds anything suspicious, they also ask for a financial report of your organization from Dun & Bradstreet. Or ask you to provide a professional opinion letter, or POL, wherein an attorney or accountant vouches for the authenticity of your organization.
If you’re an individual developer, you’re not excluded from the benefits of using a code signing certificate. However, only one CA, Sectigo, can give you a code signing certificate — after thorough individual verification, of course! For this process, the CA will send you the ID form via email, which you need to sign and have a licensed notary public (or your country’s equivalent of a notary public) notarize. In addition to the form, you’ll also need to provide a government-issued ID and two documents (one financial and one non-financial) that contain your full name.
Now, imagine as a CA how much staff and time it would take to complete such a rigorous verification process? The CAs not only need to hire qualified staff and train them, but they also need to provide them the proper infrastructure to conduct the authentication procedures. Of course, all of this takes a huge amount of financial investment from each CA. And that’s the whole reason why no CAs can afford to provide a free code signing certificate.
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Why so much fuss about code signing certificates, anyways? Because malicious software can insert worms, viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, droppers, etc., directly in a user’s computer. Some hackers insert malware code into legitimate software. Without the use of a code signing certificate, users would be unaware that the software is compromised, leaving them vulnerable. Sometimes attackers make a pirated version of the well-known software, which makes users visit a malicious website to get activation keys. Such malware can:
- steal financial information and personal records, passwords, and other sensitive information from the users’ computers,
- slow down their systems,
- flood their operating systems with pop-up advertisements, and
- corrupt their important files.
Some malware can enable the attacker to control the victim’s computer remotely, which the attacker uses for committing other cybercrimes without getting caught.
A code signing certificate works like a barrier, which helps users to decide which software to trust. Now, you can see the importance of a code signing certificate. As we said earlier, for a CA to vouch for you, they require verification about you or your business, and that process is costly. That’s why no free code signing certificates exist.
Genuine code signing certificates range from $80 per year to $700 per year. Price varies as per the brand name, verification level, warranty, etc. SectigoStore.com offers code signing certificates as little as $79 per year. We also provide individual code signing certificates in case you’re not attached to a big organization.
Top Code Signing Certificates of 2020
|Features||Sectigo Code Signing||Sectigo EV Code Signing|
|Certificate Type||OV Code Signing||EV Code Signing|
|Validation Type||Organization Validation||Extended Validation|
|Multiple year options||Yes||Yes|
|Encryption strength||256-Bit SHA-2||256-Bit SHA-2|
|Issuance Time||1 to 3 Business Days||1 to 5 Business Days|
|Immediate Reputation with Microsoft’s SmartScreen Filter||No||Yes|
|Microsoft Authenticode Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Android Apps Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Apple OS X Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Apple OS X Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Microsoft Office VBA Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Adobe Air Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Vista x64 Kernel Mode Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Phone Apps Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Qualcomm Brew App Signing||Yes||Yes|
|Microsoft Office Document Security||Yes||Yes|
|Refund Policy||30 Days||30 Days|
|Lowest Price||From $79/year||From $289.67/year|
|Buy Now||View Product||View Product|