Email certificate providers

S/MIME vs TLS certificates

There are many commercial X.509v3 certificate providers, but only a few of them provide certificates for secured email. Most providers only issue TLS certificates for securing Web servers.

Certificate providers

These providers issue certificates suitable for securing email using S/MIME:

Comodo
Sells email certificates from US$12 for 1 year, with cheaper prices for up to 3 years and for bulk orders.
Comodo also offers a Free Class 1 email certificates for personal non-commercial use.
GeoTrust
Sells digital certificates for US$19.95 for 1 year.
StartCom
Sells Class 2 verified certificates for US$59.90 for two years.
Free Class 1 email certificates, with an optional web-of-trust identity verification process.
Symantic (VeriSign)
Sells Class 1 Digital IDs for Secure Email for US$19.95 for 1 year.

Note: other articles on the Internet suggested Thawte or CAcert. Thawte used to offer email certificates, but stopped doing so on 16 November 2009. CAcert is a community effort, but it is not being considered here because their root certificates are not found in most major mail programs. For our purposes, this makes them no better than self-signed certificates that we could have created ourselves.

Certificate class

Class 1 certificates are issued with no checking of who you are. Anyone with a working email address can get them.

Class 2 certificates are issued after some identity checking has taken place. For example, the issuer might want to see a copy of your passport or driver licence.

A Class 1 certificate is probably good enough for most purposes, since the people you are emailing will probably not care (or even know what the class system means).

Differences

The Comodo and Versign Web interfaces were very easy to use. The StartCom Web interface is more complicated, but it does allow certificates to be created for multiple email addresses with one account.

Decide which certificate provider you want to use and create a certificate for your email address.

Return to the overview or go to the next step of getting a Comodo certificate.