I’ve been using Thawte‘s free personal email digital certificates for some years now. Unfortunately, Thawte discontinues the Personal E-mail Certificate and Web of Trust services. All issued certificates will be revoked on November 16th 2009 and the particular services will no longer be available after that date.
Read more information about this matter here.
All current certificate owners will be offered a free one-year digital certificate for email encryption/signing by Verisign. Renewals of those certificates will cost $19.95 per email address (at the time of writing), while using Thwate’s program you could just pay an initial fee in order to verify your identity and then get your name to appear on all your digital certificates that had been issued by that service for your email addresses.
Although I believe that taking back what you have given is usually either a sign of greed and irresponsibility or proof of bad planning, I do understand Thawte’s given reasons for such a decision:
[...] for the ever-expanding standards and technology requirements will outpace our ability to maintain these services at the high level of quality we require [...]
When it comes to secure authentication or digital identification, quality is not negotiable. On the other hand, what is questionable is the high price of the certificate renewals, which do not involve any kind of paperwork and could also require no human intervention at all, provided that the initial verification of the certificate owner’s identity and the renewal procedure itself are being done correctly.
I am quite certain that there are other Certificate Authorities that offer free email certificates or email certificate programs at reasonable prices, but I didn’t have the time to check. Perhaps, a reader who has done some research on this could contribute some info.
I’ll be posting about this topic again soon. Stay tuned!
The Free Personal Email Certificates Program discontinued by Thawte by George Notaras, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.