SSL Certificates and Code Signing Certificates – What’s the Difference?
SSL Certificates and Code Signing Certificates may share certain similarities, but these two certificates are not the same.
What SSL Certificates and Code Signing Certificates Have in Common
The subtle differences may set it apart, but SSL and Code Signing certs do have several similarities. Among the common grounds they are:
- They serve a similar main purpose, which is protecting end-users from falling prey to cybercriminals.
- Cybersecurity is the main purpose both these certificates are used.
- They are both digital X.509 certificates.
- Both these certificates rely on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).
- Before these certificates are issued, a Certificate Authority is needed. It is the responsibility of this Certificate Authority to verify the credibility and validity of the applicant.
- If both these certificates are absent, end-users will usually see a security warning.
SSL Certificates and Code Signing Certificates’ Major Differentiations
Some businesses require the development of downloadable software. In this case, they would require a website that serves as a platform where the software can be downloaded. Should this be the case for your business, then both SSL and Code signing are essential to complete the task.
1. SSL Certificates
- These are used to secure websites. Data will then be securely transmitted between the user’s browser and the official website’s server.
- This must be installed by the webmaster or the website’s owner.
- Create a secure connection between the end user’s browser and the server.
- Helps to facilitate the encryption of data that is transferred using 256-bit symmetric encryption. This makes hacking, misusing or abusing sensitive data a lot harder for anyone who is trying to hack into the system.
- A certificate authority must verify that the domain belongs to you when you apply for an SSL Certificate.
- If you choose extended validation or organization validation, you will need to provide your business details. This includes your business identification or registration number, date, full legal business name, business phone number and physical business address.
- The certificate’s public and private keys linked to the URL of the website will be connected once your identity has been verified by the certificate authority.
- Upon verification, your website will be issued with an HTTPS instead of an HTTP. You should then see a padlock sign displayed. Look for the padlock symbol on your website’s address bar.
- You may access the details of your SSL Certificate by clicking on the padlock sign for more details.
2. Code Signing Certificates
- For protecting downloadable software (scripts, applications, device drivers, executables).
- Must be purchased and used by publishers or software developers.
- The software will not be encrypted; it will be signed and hashed instead. This is like digitally stamping your signature throughout the code.
- Any changes made to the code will result in changes in the hashing value.
- Software developers will be able to receive alerts if their software has been tampered with before it’s too late.
- The certificate authority will need to verify the details of your business before issuing a certificate.
- Individual developers must present a notarized form to the certificate authority. The form needs to authenticate the photo identification (government-issued) given. After that, the process will be followed up by a phone call. This is the last verification step of the process.
- Once your identity has been verified, you can place your unique and verified digital signature on any code or software that you develop. This allows anyone using your software to ratify that you are the original developer or publisher.
- When buyers download your software, they will be able to see the name of your business instead of “unknown publisher”.
What are the Types of SSL Certificates and Code Signing Certificates?
The types of the two certificates are as follows:
- Basic Domain Validated DV SSL Certificate
- Organization Validation OV SSL
- Extended Validated EV SSL
- Wildcard SSL Certificate
- Multi-Domain SSL Certificate
- Basic Organisation Validation Code Signing Certificate
- Extended Validated Code Signing Certificate
Paid SSL Certificates will have a warranty in most cases. With a warranty, you can rest assured that you’ll be reimbursed if any damages are incurred. The Certificate Authority will handle the reimbursement process. Sort of like having liability insurance. The warranty will range from $10,000 and $1,750,000. It is contingent on the type of certificate.
Code Signing Certificates do not offer warranties.
What Happens When My SSL Certificate and Code Signing Certificate Expires?
End users will see the subsequent error message if their SSL Certificates is about to expire soon:
Code Signing Certificate expirations work a little differently. Even if they see this security warning, they can still see the name of the verified publisher. But this is only possible if the publisher has timestamped their software since timestamps are the digital signatures that last forever. Yes, even if the certificate has expired, the timestamp will stay. For the end-user, it gives the assurance that the cert is still valid, even if it has expired.
Should I Apply for Extended Validation?
The advantage of extending your SSL Certificate and Code Signing Certificate include:
1. Extended Validated SSL Certificate
- Your legal business name will be shown in the address bar. Your legal business name will be listed just before your domain name is.
- It gives your end-users the highest security and trust levels.
- You will receive a dynamic site seal. This looks like a small clickable image. This image will be visible on all your webpages that are securely encrypted.
- Users who click on your seal can see your SSL details in real-time.
- Timestamps serve as a visual trust factor.
2. Extended Validated Code Signing Certificate
- You receive your private key via an external USB hardware device.
- The private key is secured digitally and physically. This is known as two-factor authentication.
- Enhanced security and resilient authentication.
- You will be trusted by Microsoft’s SmartScreen, which is a difficult validation to gain. This way, your software won’t be flagged as “suspicious” when the end-user tries to access it.
- Extended validated certificates are the best way for new developers to gain trust.