What Is the Cheapest Code Signing Certificate and How to Get It?
Looking for the cheapest code signing certificate? We’ve got your back!
Let’s face it! Code signing certificates are akin to a knight in shining armor for developers and organizations, especially if they don’t have a well-established reputation. However, they have the potential of burning a hole right through your pockets, particularly if you are running on a tight budget. While it is not possible to obtain a code signing certificate free of cost (if you find one, that’s definitely a scam), there are affordable alternatives available if you know where to look. In this article, we’ll take a look at low-cost standard code signing certificates, examine their efficacy in comparison to their high-cost variants, and find out how and where you can obtain one to securely sign your applications.
What Is the Cheapest Code Signing Certificate?
As most of you probably know, code signing is a way to attach a digital signature to any software and keep it safe from any unauthorized modifications. It serves two primary functions – authentication of the author’s identity, and preservation of the file’s integrity. Certificate authorities (CAs) offer two distinct options for code signing certificates –
- the standard code signing certificate, and
- an extended validation (EV) code signing certificate.
Let’s gain a deeper understanding of the two options available to us before making a purchase.
Standard Code Signing Certificate
Opting for a standard code signing certificate is your best move if you’re diligent about security but are striving to stay economical at the same time. When it comes down to the application signing process itself, both standard and EV code signing certificates offer the same level of protection. Typically, almost all CAs support the use of SHA-256 with 2048-bit RSA encryption. However, standard code signing certificates cannot bypass the Microsoft SmartScreen filter. To do so, a developer will gradually need to build their reputation by getting more customers to download their software and garner positive user reviews. The likelihood of end-users being shown a security warning diminishes as the application’s reputation is built and its trustworthiness improves.
EV code signing is a more security-sensitive signing process as it involves an extensive vetting of the publisher that allows in asserting the maximum identity. Additionally for these certificates, when it comes to the storage of private keys, it is done on external hardware fobs thus reducing the chance of unauthorized access.
If these are not integral to satisfying your business requirements, a standard code signing might be a good fit to meet your needs. Some certificate authorities, such as Comodo (now Sectigo), price their standard code signing certificate at less than $70 per year.
EV Code Signing Certificate
Of the two, the EV variant has a more rigorous validation process and is available at a considerably higher price point, albeit with some positively enticing benefits. You see, one of the most attractive features of a code signing certificate lies in its ability to bypass the Microsoft SmartScreen filter.
Even for newcomers in the industry, who do not have a reliable publisher reputation, an EV code signing certificate will suppress any security warnings that might dispel new customers from downloading and running a program. On the CA’s part, this requires that applicants requesting an EV code signing certificate must be thoroughly vetted to ensure their legitimacy. The validation process is much more intensive, and most users will often find that the features supported bring in more customers, justifying the higher sale price.
Tips to find the cheapest code signing certificate
Now that we understand the major differences between standard and EV code signing certificates, let’s take a look at a few pointers that might nudge you in the right direction.
- As a rule of thumb, standard code signing certificates are always priced lower than their EV counterparts. As long as you have other tricks in place to drive up the conversion rates, the standard version will always be the more budget-friendly and financially viable choice.
- Prices fluctuate from one certificate authority to another. Be sure to research your choice of CA before making a purchase.
- Buy your certificate from a certificate reseller. You’ll find that the prices they offer for any digital certificate are always lower than what you will get on the CA’s website.
How to Get a Standard Code Signing Certificate?
The steps for getting a code signing certificate is essentially similar to procuring any digital certificate for that matter and does not require any special considerations. You can get one directly from a CA’s website or from a trusted third-party certificate reseller. Follow the steps outlined below to sign your code using a standard code signing certificate:
- Purchase your code signing certificate directly from any trusted CA or a vendor.
- Complete the validation process by submitting the necessary documentation and identity proof to the issuing CA.
- On completing the verification process, the CA will share the code signing certificate with you that you’ll need to install on your system.
After successful installation, you’re all set to begin signing your applications before releasing them to your end-users.