SSL CERTIFICATES VS CODE SIGNING CERTIFICATES

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CODE SIGNING CERTIFICATES
Hacker using laptop. Lots of digits on the computer screen.

Many online businesses and web application developers seek the perfect cybersecurity product that will authenticate and secure their data. Two such product types that we regularly come across include Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates and Code Signing certificates. Though both of them keep away those with malicious intentions, but function in a different manner. Let’s learn more bout these two digital certificates to help you choose the best one for your unique needs!

  • What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. They use encryption security to secure your domain and subdomains from cyber threats. So, when customer data is exchanged between the browser and the server, these certificates use asymmetric encryption to secure and encrypt the data (data gets converted into ciphertext) and shield it against hackers.

How Asymmetric Encryption Works

Two keys are used in this process, i.e., the Public Key (accessible by the user), which encrypts all the messages sent by the user, and the Private Key (accessible by the intended recipient), which is stationed on the server/device for decrypting the user’s coded message.

  • What is a Code-Signing Certificate?

A Code Signing Certificate shields your web against hackers, just like SSL digital certificates, but not in the form of encryption security. It confirms the identity of the code/software developer and ensures the users about the authenticity of the web application. It also assures users that the code is original and not compromised from when the code-signing was done. 

If the code is compromised or from an unknown publisher, users are warned about the same by other security solutions like anti-virus software or firewalls. 

How Code-Signing Certificate Works

Popular browsers also acknowledge web applications and software which are signed with digital signatures from the publisher. In the absence of the same, a pop-up warning stating “Publisher: Unknown” is displayed to the user. Code Signing certificate comes in two variants namely regular code sign and EV Code Signing certificate.

  • Difference between Code Signing Certificates Vs SSL Certificates:
  • Usage:
  • An SSL certificate protects website data with encryption. It encrypts browser-server communication for securing the same against hackers.
  • A code-signing certificate shields software and code by hashing like web applications, scripts, and executables. 
  • Employed By:
  • An SSL certificate is desired and installed by website owners to secure their digital infrastructure.
  • A code-signing certificate is essential for web developers and software publishers to authenticate the code.

Note: If your business comprises software development for downloadable use, and you have a website stating the same, you need both the above-mentioned digital certificates. 

  • Function:
  • The main function of the SSL certificate is to establish a secure tunnel between the browser and the server with the help of encryption algorithms. Robust 256-bit encryption security is available when SSL certificates are installed on websites.
  • Code-signing certificates use hashes instead of algorithms to sign and stamp the codes. It’s like a digital sign stating that the software is authentic. In case of code tampering by an intruder, the hash values of the code change, thus warning the user.
  • Identity Verification:

Both these certificates are verified by the Certificate Authorities (CA’s), but the verification process is slightly different.

  • When a user requests an SSL certificate, the CA verifies the primary domain name of the website. The same is done by sending a verification email to the mentioned email address to confirm the domain name.

When users request Organisation Validation SSL certificates or Extended Validation SSL certificates, the organization details, legitimacy of the business, physical address, etc., are verified by the CA.

  • In the case of EV code-signing certificates, the CA will verify your contact details, physical address, and other registration details. When individual web developers are involved, a notarized form must be submitted to the CA, including your photo-id proof for verification purposes. The CA will also conduct a phone call verification.

Tip: Both these digital securities are available at SSL2Buy at very reasonable rates. 

You can buy SSL certificates like Comodo PositiveSSL certificate at $8/year and Comodo Code Signing Certificate at $80/year at SSL2Buy.

  • Visual Identity Attachment:
  • Once the SSL certificate is installed on the website, HTTPS (hyper-text transfer protocol secure) and a secure padlock appear in the address bar. When the padlock is clicked for more information, the below-mentioned image below appears.

This attachment is identity proof stating that your site is genuine.

The absence of an SSL certificate on a website will display a message “Your connection to this site is not secure”.

  • In the case of code signing certificates, you are permitted to put a distinct, verified digital signature/stamp on the developed code after the entire verification process is over. This permits the buyers to verify the publisher of the code.

The name mentioned in front of the “Verified Publisher” is evidence of genuine downloadable software.

When the software is not code-signed, the buyers will see an “Unknown” written against the “Publisher”.

  • Cost:
  • SSL certificates commence from $8/year and go up to $760/year (SSL2Buy).
  • Code signing certificates commence from $60/year and go up to $549/year in case of EV Code Signing certificate (SSL2Buy).
  • Warranty:
  • SSL certificates come with a warranty ranging from $10,000 to $20,00,000, depending on your selection of SSL certificates.
  • Code signing certificates don’t come with any warranties.
  • Expiry Dates & Visibilities:
  • In case of the expiry of an SSL certificate, a warning message as shown below will be displayed each time the user tries to access the website.
  • A warning message is displayed to the users in case of the expiry of a code signing certificate. But if timestamping (signature digitized using a private key which stays after the expiry of the certificate) is done by the web developer, then the verified publisher’s name will be visible even after the expiry of the code signing certificate.
  • Types:
  • SSL certificates are available in 3 validations:
  • Domain Validation SSL (DV SSL)
  • Organization Validation SSL (OV SSL)
  • Extended Validation SSL (EV SSL)
  • Code signing certificates are available in only 2 validations as discussed above like
  • Regular Code Signing certificate (OV SSL)
  • Extended Validation Code Signing certificate (EV Code Sign)

Wrapping Up:

Both these digital certificates are verified by CA’s and secure websites and downloadable software from cyber-criminals. Secondly, both these certificates display warnings in their absence, which helps users be cautious before approaching an unsecured digital web.

Both these certificates are useful in their way, and it’s advisable to use both for securing your web. Please take advantage of their similarities and consider their differences for deciding which is appropriate for your business.

In a nutshell, SSL certificates secure data, and code signing certificates secure codes.

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