Code Signing Certificate vs SSL Certificates: Key Differences

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Code Signing VS SSL Certificate

When strengthening software security, Code Signing and SSL certificate always come at the top list. Both aid the software providers in ensuring a secure and seamless environment for their end users.

Code Signing Certificate is particularly for source code protection, and an SSL Certificate is for website data security. However, numerous people still get confused between them and select the wrong solution. But it wouldn’t happen with you. The following differentiation will give you a crisp and clear insight into the difference between the Code Signing Certificate vs SSL Certificate.

The Code Signing Certificate Fundamentals

Securing the software’s source code is essential to maintaining data integrity and confidentiality. Nowadays, whether it’s a Windows, Linus, or macOS system, it also checks the authenticity of software’s code. Otherwise, it blocks the installation and displays a warning message to the end user.

No developer wants their customers to encounter the warning message, as it drops their brand’s reputation. Therefore, publishers utilize the Code Signing Certificate to prevent the system from showing alerts and make the code secure. It uses the functionality of hashing and encryption to solidify the code’s authenticity. Moreover, it also integrates the publisher’s sign with the software, making it legitimate according to system standards.

Furthermore, software publishers must deal with Certificate Authorities’ requirements to obtain a Code Signing Certificate. And it’s the only way to obtain and utilize a digital certificate to protect the executable files.

Besides it, you can also leverage the following Code Signing Certificate benefits:

  • Code Signing converts the source code into an unreadable format, disabling hackers from making changes.
  • It helps software publishers to establish their brand reputation across digital platforms.
  • Operating systems don’t show warnings for software having a code signing certificate.
  • It supports increasing customer retention and trust, as it zero-down the probability of an Unknown Publisher Warning.
  • You seamlessly align with online app store policies to avail the allowance to list your application.
  • It provides the timestamp functionality, guaranteeing software validation after certificate expiration.
  • Available at three levels, IV (Individual Validation), OV (Organization Validation), or Standard and EV (Extended Validation), according to your unique requirements.

The SSL Certificate Fundamentals

SSL Certificate refers to the Secure Socket Layer Certificate that helps to transfer data in a protected environment. It is mainly for and mandatory for every website and web-based application to align with industry standards. The purpose of using an SSL Certificate is to create an encrypted channel, which could solidify the data security over the network.

The HTTPS that you see with the website’s address is due to an SSL certificate. It enables the HTTPS protocol to transfer each data bit securely.

Default Protocol HTTPS

In addition, the global statistics also verify that more than 80% of websites use HTTPS by default. Hence, most businesses prefer using SSL Certificates from the beginning to prevent data breaches.

Whether starting an online blog or e-commerce business or creating a new website for your business, SSL is a critical requirement for everyone. And it doesn’t matter if you are an individual or a large enterprise; you must configure an SSL certificate on your website and portals.

Furthermore, an SSL certificate executes its operations using an encryption mechanism, utilizing the cryptographic keys (Public and Private keys). Both keys collaborate to encrypt and decrypt the data simultaneously at the sender and receiver’s end. And, if you want to utilize it for your digital presence, it must get installed on your server, communicating with end-user browsers.

With an SSL Certificate, you obtain the following benefits:

  • Transmits sensitive information in a secure format.
  • Enables HTTPS protocol and optimizes reputation across browsers.
  • Builds user trust towards the brand, as people trust websites with HTTPS more.
  • Assures data availability to only authorized users at both ends.
  • It helps to align with search engine policies, leading to organically enhanced ranking.

Need to Buy Code Signing Certificate and SSL Certificate for Software Security

Code Signing certificate vs SSL Certificate both play a primary role in achieving software security. Likewise, their functionality, there can be different reasons to purchase any one of them. Let’s have a look.

Top Reasons to Buy Code Signing Certificate

  • To comply with standards and policies of operating systems and online app stores.
  • To ensure an impeccable installation experience without any warning and alert to your customers.
  • To relieve yourself from the worry of unauthorized modification to the code.
  • To increase productivity, revenue, and legitimacy rate.
  • To contribute as an authentic participant in making the digital world secure for an average user.
  • To make your software valid in the long term.

Top Reasons To Buy SSL Certificate

  • To configure an encrypted channel to transfer data between the server and client system securely.
  • To align with security and industry policies.
  • To enable HTTPS, as it ensures end-users that the website is authentic and safe.
  • To prevent phishers and attackers from publishing fake websites in your brand’s name.
  • To maintain the integrity of sensitive data while in transmission.

Factors Differentiating Code Signing and SSL Certificate

The following are the most significant factors in understanding the differentiation between Code Signing certificates and SSL Certificates.

1. Validation Procedure

To avail of Code Signing and SSL Certificate, one has to undergo a validation procedure. In the vetting process, the applicant has to submit the details required by the Certificate Authority. Further, after complete verification, CA issues the digital certificate.

To avail of the Code Signing Certificate, the software publisher has to provide its authenticity to the Certificate Authority. However, to obtain an SSL Certificate, the applicant must prove the legitimacy and ownership of the domain. The validation procedures differ according to the type of certificate. But, obtaining an EV Certificate in both scenarios is a rigorous task.

2. Types of Certificates  

Primarily code signing certificate is of three types in accordance with validation levels. But, SSL Certificate has different variations as per domain coverage requirements. It aids you in selecting an appropriate SSL solution with the required security level.

Code Signing Certificate Types:

  • Individual Validation Code Signing Certificate (Only for independent developers/publishers)
  • Organization Validation (Standard) Code Signing Certificate (Only for organizations)
  • Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate (Only for organizations with additional security requirements)

SSL Certificate Types:

  • Single Domain SSL Certificate (Available at DV, OV, and EV levels and secures only one domain)
  • Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (Available at DV, OV, and EV levels and secures up to 250 domains)
  • Wildcard SSL Certificate (Available at DV and OV levels and protects one primary domain and all its subdomains)
  • Multi-Domain Wildcard SSL Certificate (Available at DV and OV levels and protects multiple domains and all their subdomains)

3. Working of Certificate

Code Signing protects the source code, and an SSL Certificate establishes secure communication channels between the server and browser. Hence, their work is entirely different from each other.

Code Signing Certificate takes the source code as primary input and converts it to a hash digest. Then, it encrypts the hash digest using the associated cryptographic keys. Further, the publisher’s signature and timestamp get added to the encrypted file. As the final result, you get your source code in a fully-functional yet non-readable format.

On the other hand, when a client browser sends a request to a server to establish an HTTPS connection, SSL Certificate gets used for verification. The server sends its SSL Certificate’s copy as a response, and after confirming the details, session keys get exchanged. To securely share the session keys, cryptographic keys get used. Hence, the server and browser create a secure session.

4. Usage and Primary Users

The primary usage of the Code Signing Certificate is to perform hashing and encryption on the source code. And also to add the publisher’s signature and timestamp to the software. In addition, it also aids in complying with system standards to eliminate Unknown Publisher Warning during installation.

Furthermore, the primary users of a Code Signing Certificate are individual publishers and organizations offering software to their customers.

Whereas the primary usage of an SSL Certificate is only at websites and web portals. You can use an SSL certificate for every digital portal, from a simple blogging website to an e-commerce store with an integrated payment gateway. SSL Certificate is for all, whether you are a blogger, a startup with a static website, or a large enterprise with multiple internal and external portals.

5. Post-Expiration Scenario

Professionals always prefer to renew certificates before they expire. Both expire after some time, whether it’s a Code Signing or an SSL Certificate. Hence, you must renew them by completing the CA-defined procedure.

If a Code Signing Certificate expires, two cases get formed. The first is that if your software contains a timestamp, it will remain valid after the certificate expires. In the second case, if your executable file doesn’t have a timestamp, it will be treated as invalid or from an unauthorized publisher.

Further, if your SSL Certificate expires, you have to renew it immediately. Otherwise, browsers will treat your website as insecure. Moreover, the HTTPS will get disabled, and your data will start moving in the original format.

6. Warranty Amount

When you purchase any SSL Certificate, CA guarantees you a warranty amount in case your data gets breached. Although, the condition to avail of the warranty is to prove the root cause as a vulnerability in SSL Certificate. The warranty amount can differ between $50,000 to $1,000,000 according to the certificate type and validation level.

But, if an attacker exploits your software due to Code Signing Certificate, you will receive zero warranty amount.

7. Code Signing Certificate Provider vs SSL Provider

Certificate Authority is the only entity authorized to issue SSL and Code Signing Certificates. Every applicant has to complete the vetting process to become eligible for the digital certificate. Moreover, there are only a few reputed CAs, that you must consider, such as Sectigo and Comodo.

Therefore, to obtain any digital security certificate, you must reach out to Certificate Authority.

Best Code Signing Certificate for You

At the time of buying a Code Signing Certificate, you must consider only CA-authorized sellers, such as SignMyCode. Such providers have a wide variety of digital certificates to fulfill your long-term requirements. In addition, you get a top-notch certificate at a cheaper price, along with 24/7 support services.

Some of the Best Code Signing Certificates include:

Code Signing CertificatesPrice
Certera Code Signing Certificate$39.99/yr
OV Code Signing Certificate$44.99/yr
Comodo OV Code Signing Certificate$44.99/yr
Sectigo OV Code Signing Certificate$44.99/yr
EV Code Signing Certificate$149.99/yr
Comodo EV Code Signing Certificate$149.99/yr
Sectigo EV Code Signing Certificate$149.99/yr

Wrapping Up

Code Signing certificate vs SSL certificate, both are the two most crucial software security solutions. Where one helps to tamper-proof the code, the other generates an encrypted transmission channel to maintain data integrity. And to obtain any one of them, you have to prove your legitimacy to the Certificate Authority.

The usage, primary users, working in the background, and purpose are contrasting. But consequently, both function as the primary pillars of a secure software environment for stakeholders. Therefore, if you are releasing software, utilize a Code Signing Certificate and in the case of a website, use an SSL Certificate.

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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