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SSL Certificate Vs Code Signing Certificate - The Technical Difference Explained

SSL Certificate Vs Code Signing Certificate: What are they, how do they Work, and Why are they Needed?

Data is one of the most crucial assets today that demands high-end security to safeguard it from intruders and cyber attackers. A leak or breach in the data can be disastrous at an individual and organizational level. Therefore, various security certificates are available online to ensure the complete security of your data.

The two most popular names when talking about security certificates are code signing certificates and SSL certificates. Both these certificates are used in authentication processes but have distinct purposes.

Code signing certificates are mostly used to safeguard the code of the software, whereas the SSL certificate secures your internet connection to prevent data leaks and breaches.

However, people usually get confused between the two because they both are X.509 certificates and use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) in their functioning. Let us explore more about these two in the blog that will help you comprehend the needed certificate for you.

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL (secure sockets layer) is one of the most prevalent technologies used to secure an internet connection through data encryption. It creates a layer over the network through which users transfer the data and prevent its stealing by ensuring no unauthorized access.

An SSL certificate is provided by the certification authority, which works based on PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). The certificate is installed in your browsers, authenticating every website you visit and ensuring a safe internet browsing experience. The two primary functions of an SSL certificate are:

It authenticates the website owner's identity to ensure the website's safety. Also, in certain types of SSL certificates, the certification authority verifies the phone number, physical address, government registration details, etc., for business identification.

The certificate encrypts the data between the browser and the system. The data can only be decrypted using a private key which must be present with the other party. Other than the authorized users, no one else can interpret the information while in a transaction.

How does the SSL Certificate Work?

The functioning of an SSL certificate is straightforward and is as follows:

Primarily, when the browser tries to communicate with a server that is protected with SSL, the browser asks the server to identify itself.

Next, the server sends its SSL certificate back to the browser and the public key.

The browser then checks the certificate against a list of root certificates. In this step, the browser confirms the authentication of the certificate, its validation, and certificate revocation. If the browser finds the website trustworthy, it initiates an encrypted symmetric session using the server’s public key.

The server further decrypts the received symmetric session with its private key and provides an acknowledgment to the browser. The server also sends the permit for the encrypted session and its session key in this step.

Once the session starts, all data is transmitted in an encoded format between the browser and the server in an encoded format.

What is a Code Signing Certificate?

A Code Signing Certificate is used to verify the identity of a software publisher. In addition, it also assures users that the software signed with a digital signature has not been modified and is completely safe to use. The fundamental use of a code signing certificate is ensuring that an unauthorized user has not modified specific software maliciously.

Software that is not secured with the code signing certificates displays a message upon their download or installation that the software might not be safe to use. It is then the user’s call that they wish to go ahead with the installation or revoke it. However, it is always recommended not to install such software that can harm you.

How does the Code Signing Certificate Work?

The following process explains how code signing works:

Code signing certificates either use a public key, a private key, or a hash function in their work. The process starts with the developer applying the private key to embed the digital signature after the software is entirely developed.

The digital signature is hashed, leveraging the remaining code.

The user system then verifies the digital signature when a user tries to download the software.

After signature verification, the system creates a hash function. The hash function created at the start of the process must be the same as this hash function.

If the hash function matches each other, the system will provide you with the information that you can use the software; else it will try to warn you not to install the software.

SSL Certificate Vs Code Signing Certificate

To provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of the two security certificates, we will compare both these certificates on the basis of the following:

1. Purpose of the Certificate

The fundamental purpose of the SSL Certificate is to encrypt the data that is being shared on a website. This is done by leveraging 256-bit encryption that ensures the data transfer happens securely without the intervention of any third party.

On the other hand, a code signing certificate ensures the safety of the software by digitally signing it. In this technique, the system does not fully encrypt the software but uses a hash function to sign the software. The system alarms the software publisher or developer if someone tries to tamper with the system code.

2. Document Requirements

Both security certificates are generally purchased from an authentic certification authority (CA). When buying an SSL certificate, the CA verifies if you are the real domain owner. The process is extremely simple and does not require specific instructions for purchasing a certificate.

Conversely, in the case of the code signing certificate, you will need to provide your CA with a business registration document containing your contact number and business address.

3. Validation

SSL certificate offers three types of validation: Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV). On the other hand, a code signing certificate also offers three types of validation: Organization Validation (OV), Extended Validation (EV), and Individual Validation (IV).

Different validations are used for different certification purposes. But in each of them, the website or software is validated by the certification authority.

4. Identification of Certificates

To check the identity of a website you are visiting, you can click on the padlock before the URL bar and get the certificate details for that website. For software, identification is much easier as the digital signature is already applied and displayed over the software.

5. Warranties

Warranties can vary depending on the purchased certificate. However, in general, the warry amount for an SSL certificate starts from $10,000. Whereas for the code signing certificate, the amount is higher and usually starts from $50,000. (The amount is variable for different brands and certificates.

6. Expiration

Both SSL and code signing certificates have an expiry period of two years. The time duration is purposefully kept short so that owners and software publishers are always vigilant about their product security.

SSL Vs Code Signing Certificate: Table Difference

Code Signing Certificate SSL Certificate
Purpose It is used to secure software, apps, executables, scripts, and more. It is used to secure websites.
Users Software publishers, or developers. Website owners.
Encryption 256-bit Encryption technique. 256-bit Encryption technique.
Validity 2 Years. 2 Years.
Certificate Authorities CheapSSLweb, Comodo, Sectigo CheapSSLweb, Comodo, Sectigo, Thawte

Conclusion

Code signing Vs SSL certificate, both these security certificates are essential to prevent unauthorized access to data. They said the users with a secure software or internet usage experience. So, now that the difference between the two is clear, you can take the next step of buying the best certificate suitable to your needs.

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