What is Windows Code Signing Certificate [ A Detailed Guide]

What is Windows Code Signing Certificate

A Windows code signing certificate is crucial for a developer as well as a user. This is because these certificates add a layer of security to a digital solution. Feeling that the software is secure to use, the consumer engages with it easily. On the other hand, for a developer or development company reinforcing their software with a signing certificate means good business.

In a study by Interesting Engineering, it was found that cyberattacks are more likely to bring down an F-35 than a missile.

Almost everyone has come across one such news where their friend, relative, colleague, or anyone in the circle is a victim of a cybercrime. So, to safeguard yourself and everyone around you, it is important to tread carefully on the web.

One aspect of this careful approach is to check whether the software you are about to download is secured with a Windows Code signing certificate.

How can Microsoft Developers Use Code Signing?

Microsoft has made development applications and software relatively easy for developers compared to the development systems in the past.

A wide range of Microsoft products are available today, and code signing is recommended for most of them. These include;

Windows Desktop Developers:

Desktop-based software built with Microsoft development tools requires code signing certificates to make their solution secure and maintain code integrity.

Users open browsers, Outlook, and other Microsoft programs via executable files. In this scenario, when they come across unsigned executables. At this time, Windows sends the user a message that the file is not safe for download.

It is to prevent this from happening that you need to sign your software meant for Windows desktop with a digital certificate.

Microsoft Office and VBA Developers:

Microsoft Office and VBA macros always prefer to integrate with programs that have a code signing certificate from a trusted source.

Here again, to prevent the program from interrupting the users with a security warning or preventing the macro from failing to load the macro, VBA developers using executables need to sign their software with a code signing certificate.

Recommended: Prevent Security Warning Messages

Windows Phone and Xbox 360 Developers:

Executable games and applications with a code signing certificate are recommended by service providers. So, game developers using Microsoft development tools and IDEs to build games must get a trusted certificate authority to issue a signing certificate.

Obtaining a code signing certificate before launching any of the application and software on a Windows platform means your solution will also get a Microsoft Windows® logo. This is going to add a crucial factor to your solution.

Types of Code Signing Certificates

Now that you have an understanding of what a Windows code signing certificate is, let’s move forward with knowing about the types of code signing certificates.

Standard (OV) Code Signing Certificates

This type of code signing certificate is also called Organization Validated (OV) code signing certificate. In this, the Certificate Authority (CA) will verify the organization is attempting to secure the code signing certificate. Due to this, the organization’s name is also inserted into the list of trusted parties. This lends better credibility, trust, and reputation to the organization.

Companies and organizations, including the government ones, use this form of code signing certificate to build trust among their customers.

However, due to a few past events, most notably, when hackers got a hold of NVIDIA’s code signing certificates, some changes are expected to be rolled out in the next few months.

  • From June, 2023 all the new and reissued OV and IV code signing certificates are to be stored on preconfigured hardware provided by the CAs.

*Essentially, the devices must be FIPS 140-2 Level 2 and Common Criteria EAL4+ (or equivalent) compliant.

  • Also, now the code signing certificates will be shipped to the beneficiary in a USB device to the user’s Hardware Security Module (HSM). This method is already used for EV code signing certificates. But the OV code signing certificates will also be provided similarly.

Recommended: Changes in Issuing OV Code Signing Certificate From June 2023

EV Code Signing Certificate

The Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate are meant to provide the most trust to the visitors and users. Plus, these certificates also need the most time to set up on the end of the CA.

To issue an EV signing certificate, the CAs need to have additional documentation. These include;

  1. EV Subscriber Agreement – Signed
  2. EV Authorization Form – Signed
  3. Submit either one of the following;
    • Company’s Dun and Bradstreet Number.
    • Letter from Certified Public Accountant – To verify the business.
    • Letter to register a legal opinion or a Latin Notary letter.
    • Legal opinion letter to verify government organization (only meant for government entities and companies).

Once the details are submitted, the CA or its partner will verify a few things, including;

  • Legal existence and identity
  • Trade and Assumed Name
  • Operational existence
  • Physical existence
  • Domain ownership
  • Name, title, authority, and signature

Lastly, the EV Windows Code Signing Certificate is essential to sign all and any Windows 10 driver. Having this certificate provides the driver or solution with an instant SmartScreen badge. It ultimately helps build the right authority and verifies the user’s identity.

Microsoft software and solution developers always run into a dilemma of which Windows code signing certificate is suitable for them. Follow ahead to know about their differences and make an informed decision.

Which Windows Code Signing Certificate Should I Use?

To choose between the two, follow the table below;

OV Code Signing CertificateEV Code Signing Certificate
The requirements to obtain the OV code signing certificate are less stringent.EV code signing certificate has strict and numerous requirements. Plus, the entities go through a rigorous verification process.
OV certificate holders do not get the benefit of instant reputation. Their reputations toward the software will build organically.With the EV, the software or solution gets an instant reputation boost. This is because of the SmartScreen badge that comes with this type of Windows code signing certificate.
The certificate file is stored in the user’s system. But this is going to change after November 15th, when OV certificates will be stored on a CA-recommended HSM device. However, to use the certificate for signing a software or executable file, the OV certificates can be easily shared with other devices and users.The EV code signing certificate is stored with two-factor authentication. The users are provided with an encrypted token and private key required to sign any software or executable file.
It can take between one to three days for the issuance of the OV code signing certificate.It can take one to five days for the issuance of the EV code signing certificate.

To make it simple for you, you can go ahead with the OV code signing certificate if you don’t want to spend too much money on this exercise.

Additionally, the OV Windows code signing certificate is recommended when you have launched the software to test. Secondly, choose this, if you can afford not to build instant reputation can let nature take its course.

However, if you want an instant reputation boost and looking to sign Windows 10 Kernel mode drivers, then you need an EV Windows code signing certificate.

Benefits of Windows Code Signing Certificate

After you buy Windows code signing certificate, a few things will be set in motion. These include;

Better Software Security:

When you sign the software with a code signing certificate, it will get SHA-2 hashing protection. This means that any instance of tampering with the source code will be instantly recognized.

When the user’s browser or operating system will re-hash the executable file, it will know whether the software’s integrity is intact or not. In the latter case, the user will get a message, and they may not move ahead with the download.

Helps Build a Genuine Reputation:

Every software published has to go through a verification process to gain the code signing certificate. The fact that these publishers get the certificate means they are genuine and legally registered.

Trust and Assurance:

A code signing certificate is essential to build trust. As businesses today run online, they need to be trustworthy enough to attract customers. A Windows code signing certificate will grant the authenticity publishers, and developers need to build trust.


Windows code signing certificate is a crucial element in publishing software, applications, and games. Whether these solutions are running a browser or an operating system, the code signing certificate is essential.

In Windows code signing certificate, you can choose between OV code signing certificate or EV code signing certificate. Having either one will help you build trust among the audience and become an authentic service provider.

Sing your Software/App Codes & Scripts Digitally with Windows Code Signing Certificate starts at $199.99/yr.

Janki Mehta

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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