(2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
Code Signing Certificate vs. SSL certificate is a commonly discussed topic among the cybersecurity fraternity. To give you a clear understanding, we have prepared this blog, explaining both terms in a detailed manner.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and Code Signing Certificates are both types of digital certificates. They both play key roles in establishing trust and security in online communications. SSL certificates are used for securing website communications by encrypting the connection between a user’s web browser and a website, whereas a Code Signing certificate authenticates the software publisher’s identity and ensures that the code has not been tampered with.
Both these certificates use the X.509 standard for public key infrastructure (PKI) to authenticate the certificate holder’s identity and ensure the certificate’s integrity. X.509 is a widely-used digital certificate standard. It is responsible for specifying the certificate’s format and content and for issuing, renewing, and revoking certificates
Now, before we understand Code Signing Certificate vs. SSL, let’s understand both terms in a detailed manner.
A Code Signing certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of the software publisher and ensures that the code has not been tampered with. The primary purpose of a Code Signing certificate is to verify that the software publisher is who they claim to be and that the code has not been modified since its signature.
When a user receives a digitally signed piece of code, their computer uses the public key from the Code Signing certificate to verify the signature and ensure that the software publisher indeed signed it. This helps protect users from downloading and running malicious code that could harm their computers or steal their personal information.
Code Signing certificates are issued by a trusted third-party certificate authority (CA) like Comodo and Sectigo. The certificate usually contains information about the software publisher, such as their name and address, as well as the public key used to verify the signature. They have a specific validity period, and in case of any security breach, they can be revoked by the issuer.
Code signing is the process of digitally signing executable files, scripts, drivers, and other types of code. Typically, the process involves using a code signing certificate, which contains a private key that is used to create a digital signature for the code. The public key from the certificate is then embedded into the code, along with the digital signature, so that users’ computers can verify it.
Code signing is typically used for software that is distributed over the Internet. It can be mobile apps, browser extensions, and desktop software. Apart from this, it is also used for code that is distributed within an organization, like software or macros used by employees. By verifying the integrity and publisher of code, it improves the trust in the code and its publisher.
Code signing works by using a combination of public key cryptography and digital signatures. These are the steps involved in code signing a certificate:
Now that we understand what Code Signing Certificates are, let us move a step ahead with the SSL vs. Code Signing Certificates and shed some light on SSL Certificates.
An SSL/TLS certificate, also known as a digital certificate, helps authenticate a website’s identity and builds a safe connection between the client and its server. It establishes a security system using SSL certificate chain that encrypts the connection between the website visitor and server, ensuring that no third party can access the information and data shared between the two parties. When websites are secured with a certificate, they can confidently ask their visitors for sensitive information, which is required to complete actions. It can be sharing credit card information, address, email, social security number, images, etc.
An SSL certificate prevents cyber criminals from getting hold of the information shared between the client and server. Websites that have a padlock adjacent to the URL address means that they are secured with an SSL certificate. From the day of its inception, we have seen a lot of new iterations of SSL certificates. The reason is that hackers have been devising ways of bypassing the security systems set by the SSL certificate.
SSL Certificate works by encrypting the data in transit between the client and the browser. Here is how it does:
Now we know how code signing and SSL work. So let us start comparing Code Signing Certificate vs. SSL.
Let us list down the various parameters on which we will compare Code Signing Certificate vs. SSL Certificate. First, let us discuss Code Signing Certificate.
The primary function of a Code Signing certificate is to authenticate the software publisher’s identity and make sure the integrity of the code is intact. As discussed earlier, it uses a combination of public key cryptography and digital signature and establishes the identity of the software owner and also assures the users that the code is safe for use.
Code Signing Certificates are used in a variety of applications, including
Software distribution: Code Signing certificates are commonly used for digitally signing software, application, executable files, and other types of code.
Internal code distribution: It is distributed within an organization, such as scripts or macros used by employees. By signing the code, the organization can ensure that the code is coming from a trusted source.
Firmware: It is also used for signing firmware updates to ensure that the firmware is from a legit source.
Device drivers: Device drivers are also signed with it to ensure authenticity.
Plugins and Add-ons: Code signing is used for Plugins and Add-ons for various software and browsers to maintain legitimacy.
Essentially, there are two types of Code Signing Certificates: Standard Code Signing Certificates and Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Certificates.
Standard Code Signing Certificates: They are the most commonly used Code Signing Certificates used for signing executable software and applications that are available on the Internet.
EV Code Signing Certificates: Extended Validation Code Signing Certificates are advanced Code Signing Certificates that are responsible for authenticating the identity of the software publisher. Unlike the standard one, it provides additional security features, such as hardware-based key storage and real-time monitoring of the certificate status. Moreover, this certificate undergoes a more rigorous vetting process than standard or individual Code Signing Certificates.
The CA will verify the information provided in the application by checking public records or getting in touch with the software publisher directly. This ensures that the software publisher is a trusted entity, and so is its code. As soon as the information provided in the application has been verified, the CA will issue the Code Signing Certificate.
The issuance time of a Code Signing certificate can vary based on the certificate authority (CA) issuing the certificate and the type of certificate being issued. However, most certificate authorities (CA) are able to issue Code Signing certificates in a relatively short period of time, usually within a few days to a week.
For standard Code Signing certificates, the issuance time can be as short as 24 hours, once the CA has verified all the information provided by the software publisher and the code that will be signed.
For EV Code Signing certificates, the issuance time can take longer. It is because the CA needs to perform additional checks and verifications, such as checking public records and contacting the software publisher directly. Its issuance can take up to several weeks, as the CA needs to ensure that the software publisher is a legitimate entity and that the code is legitimate.
When it comes to Code Signing, Code Signing Certificates do not usually come with warranties, but a few reputed CAs do offer them.
The cost of a Code Signing certificate is dependent on the certificate authority (CA) issuing the certificate, the type of certificate being issued, and the length of the validity period.
Standard Code Signing Certificates are generally less expensive than EV Code Signing Certificates because EV Code Signing Certificates require a more rigorous vetting process.
The cost for a standard Code Signing certificate can range from a few ten dollars to a few hundred dollars per year, based on the CA and the length of the validity period. EV Code Signing Certificates are generally more expensive, and the cost can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per year. It again comes down to the CA and the length of the validity period.
The installation process for a Code Signing certificate differs based on the type of certificate, the software that will be used to sign the code, and the operating system of the computer where the certificate will be installed. This is what happens in the installation process of a Code Signing Certificate:
The software publisher imports the certificate file into the certificate store of the operating system. On Windows, this can be done using the Certificates MMC snap-in, and on mac, it can be done using the Keychain Access utility. The private key must be associated with the certificate to allow the software publisher to sign the code using the private key. The next process is to configure the software according to the Code Signing Certificate. Once the Code Signing certificate is installed and configured, the software publisher can use the software to sign the code.
Now, let us discuss the parameters of the SSL certificate.
The main functionality of SSL is to establish a secure and encrypted connection between a user’s web browser and a website by combining public key cryptography and digital certificates.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is mainly used to establish secure and encrypted connections between a user’s web browser and a website. It is used in a variety of applications, including:
Web browsing: SSL establishes secure connections between web browsers and websites. It can be online stores, banking websites, and other sites that demand the exchange of sensitive information.
Email: SSL is also used for securing connections between email clients and e-e-mail servers. It can be done with the application of POP3S and IMAPS for checking emails. Thus, it protects the emails from being intercepted.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): For establishing a secure connection between a user’s computer and a remote VPN server SSl is used. It allows the user to securely access a private network from a remote location.
File transfers: SSL is used to establish secure connections between two computers, allowing the user to securely transfer files between the computers.
There are three types of SSL certificates.
Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificates: These certificates are issued based on the validation of domain ownership and are typically the cheapest and fastest certificate to get.
Organization Validated (OV) SSL Certificates: These certificates are issued after the validation of domain ownership and the legal existence of the organization. Compared to DV, they provide a higher level of trust.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificates: After the validation of domain ownership, the legal existence of the organization and additional identity and security checks, these certificates are issued, and thus they provide the highest level of trust among SSL Certificates.
The validation process for SSL certificates is done on the basis of two things: the type of certificate being issued and the CA that issues the certificate. The CA first verifies the information provided in the application by checking the public records and contacts the website owner directly. This ensures that the website owner is a legitimate entity and that the website is legitimate.
Once the information provided in the application has been verified, the CA will issue the SSL certificate.
For Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates, the issuance time can be as short as a few minutes once the CA has verified the domain ownership. This is done by sending an email to the administrative contact email listed in the WHOIS record or by placing a file with a specific name in the website’s root directory.
For Organization Validated (OV) and Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates, the issuance time can take longer, as the CA needs to perform additional checks and verifications, such as checking public records and contacting the website owner directly. The issuance time for OV and EV SSL certificates can take up to several days, as the CA needs to ensure that the website owner is a legitimate entity and that the website is legitimate.
Warranties for SSL certificates depend on the CA and the type of certificate, but most CAs provide a warranty that covers certain types of losses that may occur as a result of a mistake made by the CA during the issuance of the certificate.
Domain Validated (DV) SSL certificates are generally the least expensive. They can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few tens of dollars per year.
Organization Validated (OV) SSL certificates are on the expensive side and cost more than DV certificates. They can range somewhere between a few tens of dollars to a few hundred dollars per year.
Extended Validation (EV) SSL Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates are generally the most expensive and might go up to several thousand dollars per year.
The cost of certificates is actually dependent on the CA and the length of the validity period.
The installation process for an SSL certificate can vary on the basis of the certificate type, the web server software that is being used, and the operating system of the server.
The SSL certificate installation involves copying the certificate file to the appropriate server location and configuring the web server software to use the certificate. The configuration process is based on the web server software being used. And finally, the certificate is associated with the private key. The website owner should verify that the SSL certificate has been installed correctly by checking the SSL certificate status. If the status is valid, it means that the certificate has been installed correctly.
This is how SSL Certificates differ from Code Signing. You can refer to the table for a better understanding:
|Features||Code Signing Certificate||SSL Certificate|
|What it does?||It hashes the scripts and signature of the publisher||It encrypts the communication between two machines (browser and server)|
|CSR Key Length||2048 Bit CSR Key Length||3072 Bit CSR Key Length|
|SHA Algorithm||Powered by SHA-2 Algorithm||Powered by SHA-2 Algorithm|
|What Type of Validation Required?||Individual / Organization authentication||Basic Validation Via Email|
|Time for Issuance||It takes 1 to 3 Business Days||DV takes 10 minutes, OV takes 1 to 3 Days, and EV takes 1 to 5 Days.|
|Usage||Encrypt Websites with HTTPS||
|Mobile & Web Browsers Compatibility||100%||100%|
|Warranty||$10000 to $1.75 Million||No warranty|
|Refund Policy||100% Money Back Assurance for 30 Days||100% Money Back Assurance for 30 Days|
|Buy Now||Buy Now|
Code Signing and SSL certificates can coexist to create a safe space for Internet users by providing different layers of security. For example, suppose a user wants to download a software application from a website that has both a Code Signing certificate and an SSL certificate. In that case, they can be assured that the software is legit and that the website’s connection is secure.