Where to get a (free) S/SMIME e-mail certificate? 3 options

With a S/MIME certificate, you can both sign and encrypt your e-mails. Those e-mail certificates are often used by businesses in order to increase their e-mail privacy and trust. But an e-mail certificate for personal use can be very useful as well – and can come across very professional – and it can be free as well.

Free S/MIME certificates

In the past, a number of certificate vendors offered free S/MIME certificates to the public (to personal e-mail addresses, that is). Perhaps the best known example was Comodo, who furthermore also had a very simple user interface to create, manage and renew an e-mail certificate. It also had to be renewed only once a year, in contrast with other offerings from different companies where a monthly renewal was required.

Unfortunately, after searching some time for free SMIME e-mail signing and encryption, I couldn’t find any solution that has no cost attached to it. It seems like all providers stopped offering this service: they either completely stopped offering this, or they stopped offering the free version.

Paid S/MIME certificates

While free S/MIME client certificates appear to be no longer offered by any company, there are still quite some companies offering a paid solution for signing and/or encrypting e-mails.

Here is a non-exhaustive overview of e-mail client certificates:

  • SSL.com: Personal Basic Email and ClientAuth Certificate
  • Sectigo.com: Secure Email Solutions (S/MIME)
  • Globalsign.com: Secure Email – Digitally Sign & Encrypt Emails

Often, these certificates are not very costly, with even sometimes discounts when purchasing for multiple years.

Create your own S/MIME certificate

Given there are basically no providers of free S/MIME certificates today on the market, you may want to create your very own client certificate for your e-mails. This is completely free and you will learn more about encryption in creating your self-signed S/MIME certificate from scratch.

John Dalesandro has a great how-to blogpost for this. There are other guides available: ServerFault,  Henry Todd. All these guides will help you create your own S/MIME cert in no time.


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6 thoughts on “Where to get a (free) S/SMIME e-mail certificate? 3 options

      1. Actalis will not use the browser to generate a private key, but instead will generate it themselves and send you the PFX. I cannot stress enough that this defeats the whole purpose of secure e-mail, as they have the private key!

    1. I believe there are some valid use cases:

      1. How about, I will trust my own certificate myself?
      Sample use case: sending encrypted emails between work (where the organization has already an internal CA for S/MIME certificates set up) and my home mail addresses.

      2. Or being able to send some file via encrypted mail from your home address to your phone, or vice-versa, between 2 email addresses you both own, without worrying that your provider can read your mail in transit?

      3. Or exchanging encrypted emails with a friend with whom you are corresponding very frequently and who’s “stuck” on a client like Outlook which doesn’t support PGP?

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