Certificate authority companies issue digital authentication certifications, which are used to verify the online credentials of individuals, devices, and websites. The millions of digital authentication certifications issued every year help maintain the safety and privacy of internet users by encrypting and securing transactions and private information.

Types of Digital Certificates

With an SSL certificate, cryptographic keys are assigned to a website and the server that owns the site. These keys create a secure session with the server when you access the website using your browser. A valid SSL certificate must contain the website's domain name and be both current and issued by a trusted certificate authority company. Your browser will alert you of issues with a site's SSL certificate. Types of SSL certificates include:

  • A domain validation (DV) certificate, which proves that your web domain is legitimate.
  • Wildcard certificates cover an entire website, including all subdomains.
  • Extended validation (EV) certificates identify both the domain and the business or organization. This is designated by the green address bar in the user's web browser.
  • Unified communications (UC) certificates encrypt emails and other communications for multiple domains.
  • Subject alternative name (SAN) certificates include both your domain and closely related domains.
  • Organization validation (OV) certificates verify both the domain and business identity, but do not include the green address bar that characterizes an EV certificate.

In addition to SSL, other types of encryption you may encounter include the digital signature algorithm, which is a government encryption standard; Rivest-Shamir-Adleman, which is the most common encryption type; and elliptical curve cryptography, which provides encryption at the most powerful level.

Trusted Certificate Authority Companies

Certificate authority companies are governed by membership programs that establish criteria they must meet to offer encryption services. The longer a company has been operating, the more devices and browsers that will support their certificates. Backward compatibility with older mobile devices and browsers is also essential.

These websites have been vetted as providing trustworthy SSL and security certificates.

  • GeoTrust offers simple 256-bit web encryption starting at $149 with maximum security available with a customer guarantee for $299. All packages can be upgraded with a warranty and expert tech support.
  • Comodo's SSL certificates are appropriate for everyone from e-commerce sites to freelancers with a home office. They offer 256-bit encryption, unlimited service licenses, warranty up to $250,000, and expert phone support. Packages start at just $64.95 and tap out at $359. Comodo is considered one of the most trustworthy certificate authorities in the world.
  • DigiCert is used by many major corporations including Wikipedia, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T and even NASA. Although prices are reasonable, security certificates up to 2048 bits are available. Packages range from $156 to $500 for the year.
  • Thawte offers up to 256-bit encryption starting at $149 annually, with extended validation packages starting under $600. Discounts are available for those who opt for a two-year contract.
  • You've heard of GoDaddy's domain registration services, but they also offer customizable SSL packages starting under $70 and topping out at $90. You also have access to 24/7 phone support.
  • For the lowest possible cost, you may want to opt for Network Solutions, starting at just $49.99 for a four-year SSL certificate. They offer 256-bit encryption support, 24/7 chat and phone support, free reissues, and up to 99 percent browser recognition, not to mention the peace of mind that comes from choosing one of the industry's most trusted brands.
  • Symantec is one of the most expensive products on the market when it comes to SSL certification, but it also provides a warranty of up to $1.5 million.
  • Entrust ranks among the top 10 certificate authority companies in the industry and also provides affordable services that help customers drive sales and increase conversion while offering secure transactions.
  • VeriSign is a branch of Symantec that is also trusted as one of the most reliable certificate authority companies in the industry. It is currently sold under the Norton Secured brand and supports up to 256-bit encryption. They offer packages exceeding $1,000 with additional features such as extended validation and a $1.5 million warranty.
  • Secom Trust is a notable certificate authority company that is based in Japan.

If you need help with certificate authority companies, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.