Free SSL Certificates for Websites/Web Servers

Digital certs for a secured site with encrypted connections via https


Free SSL Certificates for Websites/Web Servers

The sites listed on this page provide free digital SSL certificates that you can use for your site.

SSL certificates, or Secure Socket Layer certificates, are used by websites for https connections. When someone connects to a site via https, a valid SSL cert shows at least a couple of things about the connection: the certifying authority (the place issuing the SSL certificate) affirms that the site is what it claims to be in the certificate, and that the connection is encrypted using some form of encryption.

Observe carefully what I just said: the certificate does not prove that the site is not a scam: it merely means that if you connect to https://www.example.com, the certifying authority confirms that you have indeed connected to www.example.com, and not some other site that has intercepted your connection and is pretending to be www.example.com. It may also confirm that the domain is owned by the person named in the certificate. It doesn't mean that www.example.com is owned by an honest person or even the same person/company you imagine is the owner. Neither does it mean that the encryption is any good. In fact, if your certifying authority is unreliable, it really doesn't mean anything at all; everything depends on the certifying authority.

You should always read the fine print for each of the free certification authorities -- one or more of them, in times of old, issued the certificates for free, but required payment to validate the ownership of your domain. So they weren't really free after all -- read the details in their documentation/terms of use and calculate the total cost per year before you blindly sign up with anything. In such cases, it may be cheaper and less of a hassle to pay for an SSL cert from a commercial certificate authority (like GoDaddy or some other company), where you have a single price stated clearly and unambiguously at the very outset.

In the past, your domain name (and you must have one) needed to have its own dedicated IP address (which many commercial web hosts provide anyway). This does not appear to be a requirement with the modern web browsers any more.

If you have an existing website that you're converting to a HTTPS, you may be interested in my tutorial on How to Move Your Website to SSL (ie, Convert from HTTP to HTTPS).

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Free SSL Certificates for Websites/Web Servers

Let's Encrypt

Let's Encrypt is a certificate authority that issues unlimited free certificates for your websites. At present, though, the default method they provide for you to get certs is by running their program on your web server with root privileges (ie, with administrator's access), which probably makes it a bit hard for the average webmaster to get started since he/she is unlikely to have such access. The certs expire every 90 days, but renewal is free and can be done automatically via a script. For those wondering, I have indicated on my shared web hosts list which one supports Let's Encrypt certificates.

CAcert

This organisation allows you to create certificates, including wildcard certificates (which means it is valid for any subdomain of your domain), to protect your connections to your websites or your email via POP3, SMTP and IMAP. You can create certs with any encryption strength you wish.

StartCom / StartSSL

[Latest Update (4 December 2017): StartCom announced in November 2017 that it will cease operating as a Certifcate Authority from January 2018, and will revoke all certificates issued by it in 2020. As a result, I have removed the link above, since you will no longer be able to get certificates from them.]

[Update (27 September 2016): it looks like Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser, have a long list of issues with WoSign, the company that owns StartSSL, and are going to distrust both WoSign's and StartCom's certificates. Update (31 October 2016): Google, makers of the Chrome browser, are also going to distrust WoSign's and StartCom's certificates. Update (8 August 2017): Microsoft will remove WoSign and StartCom certificates in Windows 10 after September 2017.] This company provides free digital certificates so that you can create an SSL secured site with encryption. You are allowed as many certificates as you wish. You will need to provide your personal details. This company charges for some of their validations although I'm not sure if these charges apply to the free certs. Like all things on the Internet, you should probably read their documentation and terms and conditions before committing to the certificate.

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