Does any Certificate Authorities offer a free Code Signing Certificate? The answer is NO. Let’s learn why?
Are you on the lookout for a free code signing certificate? Sorry, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Before we discuss those, you need to bear in mind that everything free comes either with a hidden cost or a caveat. We do have some useful alternatives.
In this article, we take it on ourselves to unveil the potential risks that come with such free certificates and everything else you need to know about it. So, before you plunge into a “free” deal, read until the end. Let us begin by understanding what is code signing certificate and its many features.
What is Code Signing Certificate?
Developers make use of these digital certificates to encrypt the code of an application. It enables the digital signature technology that allows authorized software publishers to sign the executable scripts and code digitally. Apart from the digital signature, the inherent features of a code signing certificate bring along numerous benefits. To get a better understanding of those benefits, let us now discuss the many features of this digital certificate.
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Code Signing Certificate Features
#1. Establishes Credibility
We currently live in a technology-driven world where millions of individuals download and install software applications, which may or may not be secure. Therefore, operating systems like Windows and Mac show alerts when applications without a valid digital signature are installed. If you do not want that to show up, then you need to sign the application with a valid code signing certificate digitally.
#2. Confirms the Publisher’s identity
Before issuing a code signing certificate, the Certificate Authority (CA) verifies the publisher’s identity by vetting documents such as Government ID, Notarized declaration, etc.… Once fully satisfied, the CA issues the certificate to the software publisher applying for it. So, this certificate confirms the identity of the original publisher by mentioning it on the certificate.
#3. Establishes Authenticity
A code signing certificate allows the developer to digitally sign executable scripts and codes, indicating authenticity to the end-users and consumers. The digital signature indicates that the software is genuine and is released by the publisher, whose name is on it. Also, it confirms that the application has not been compromised by threat actors and is safe for the end-user to use.
#4. Preserves Integrity of the Code
Often, cybercriminals modify software applications or impersonate reputed software publishers to induce users into installing malicious applications. They do this for nefarious purposes such as to steal financial and personal data or to make the user’s system a part of their bot network. An average user may not even realize the issue until it is too late. So, if you do not want malicious threat actors to misuse your market reputation, you need to digitally sign your applications and its future releases or updates with a valid code signing certificate.
#5. Minimizes the Publisher’s Liability
As a software publisher, you could end up being held responsible for the security breaches caused by threat actors impersonating you or your company. This can be avoided by using a code signing certificate to authenticate the software and its updates. Doing that limits the publisher’s liability in case of legal disputes.
Understanding the reasons for the unavailability of free code signing certificates.
Now that we have discussed everything you need to know about this digital certificate, you might have a fair idea about its key role in the virtual world. It encrypts the code and allows the publisher to establish credibility by intimating users about the software’s genuineness. Also, it adds an extra layer of security, prevents impersonation, and much more. So, you can be sure that such a priceless service does not come free of cost. So, if you ever hear of a free code signing certificate, then there are three possibilities.
On-Trial Free Code Signing Certificate
Some CAs offer free code signing certificates on a trial basis, not a long-term solution for any serious software publisher. Soon after the trial period, the user would be charged a fee for it, or the certificate would become invalid. The fee charged after the free trial could be much higher and cover up the costs of the “free” period. Therefore, instead of getting tricked into a bad deal, consider exploring cheaper alternatives from CAs that offer absolute transparency.
Free Code Signing Certificate issued by threat actors
A software application is a piece of intellectual property that needs to be fully protected. Therefore, you need to digitally sign it with a valid and secure code signing certificate issued by a reputed Certificate Authority. You do not want to end up compromising your software by using a free code signing certificate, often made available by cybercriminals through fraudulent websites.
Plus, getting one requires you to submit personally identifiable documents such as Government ID, notarized ID form, registered business documents, and other sensitive information. You do not want any of this to get into the wrong hands, which could lead to identity theft and financial fraud, among other things.
You are getting yourself a free code signing tool.
After laboriously searching for a free code signing certificate, all you would find is a free code signing tool, which cannot be used unless you purchase a code signing certificate. Yes, that means all your efforts are in vain, and it is time to stop dreaming about a free code signing certificate and start looking up cheaper alternatives.
As you may have realized, it would be unwise to risk your application’s security in a bid to save a few dollars by installing a potentially dangerous free code signing certificate made available through fraudulent websites. So, do not waste your time and effort looking for something that will not benefit you in the long run. Instead, find a cheap code signing certificate from a reliable Certificate Authority and use it to sign your applications digitally.