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What is Code Signing Certificate?

In the digital market, users are always worried about the authenticity factor. Be it a website or a software code/application, this digital market is a blend of genuine as well as a fake.

To know the authenticity of the website, users verify whether the site is secured with an SSL (Secure Socket Layers) certificate or not. In the same way, to check the authenticity of a software code or an executable, users verify whether a Code Signing Certificate is attached to it or not.

In the above cases, if the verification is positive, the software is authentic.

What is Code Signing Certificate?

This article is all about Code Signing Certificates, their types, functioning, and the process to acquire the same. So, let’s get rolling.

Content Summary

What is Code Signing Certificate?
Types of Validations of Code Signing Certificates
Organization Validation (OV) Code Signing Certificate
Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Certificate
How Code Signing Works
How to Get Code Signing Certificate
Wrapping Up

What is Code Signing Certificate?

A Code Signing Certificate is a digital security certificate that secures software codes, executables, applications, etc. with their digital signatures.

With the use of PKI (public key infrastructure), they stamp your software codes with cryptographic signatures that guarantee the software integrity and its publisher’s authenticity.

This in turn helps in enhancing user trust and leads to increase downloads too.

These certificates are solid proof that ensures the end-users that the code they are downloading is trustworthy and not compromised (altered) by scammers. Since malicious downloads can destroy your systems and networks, using this certificate is of utmost importance.

Another advantage is that an authenticate software will remove the chances of security warning.

Another advantage is that an authenticate software will remove the chances of security warning.

When users download software that is not code-signed, the Windows SmartScreen tends to display irritating warning alerts stating “Unknown Publisher”.

This cautions users and prevents them from downloading the software.

These certificates display your sign, the name of your company, and in some cases a timestamp too.

Types of Validations of Code Signing Certificates

Code signing certificates come in 2 different validations. They are:

  • Organization Validation (OV) or Standard Certificates
  • Extended Validation (EV) Certificates

Though the functions of both these code sign validations are similar, the only difference lies in the vetting process.

Organization Validation (OV) Code Signing Certificate

In the case of OV certificates, the Certificate Authority (CA) verifies the identity of the organization, before its issuance. The company’s name is also specified in the certificate and this proves to be a trust factor, highlighting the authenticity of the website, software, and owner.

These certificates are usually preferred by governments and other medium-sized organizations who wish to secure their software code.

Example: Comodo Code Signing Certificate (OV) is available at $60/year at SSL2Buy.

Comodo Code Signing Certificate

Other Features & Benefits:

  • SHA-2 encryption and 3072-bit/4096-bit RSA key for security.
  • Issuance in 1-3 business days due to the company verification process.
  • Displays the publisher’s name and secures its integrity.
  • Eligible for individual developers.
  • Proves that the software is authentic.
  • Tampering can be easily detected when code-signed.
  • The private key is placed in the developer’s device.
  • Ideal for commercial distribution of software.
  • Enhances customer trust and confidence.
  • Prevents warning alerts from operating systems.
  • Increases the download rate and revenue.
  • Majorly supported by all OS like Windows, Java & Mac.

Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Certificate

EV Code Signing Certificate offers more security and benefits compare to a standard code signing certificate.

Its extensive vetting process and necessity for advanced hardware security by the Certificate Authority, make it more secure and help enhance user trust and publisher authenticity.

User confidence and application integrity are at their maximum level in the case of EV code signing certificates and hence this certificate is usually used by banks, large corporates, and finance companies.

Example: Comodo EV Code Signing Certificate is available at $239/year at SSL2Buy.

Comodo EV Code Signing Certificate @ $239.00

Other Features & Benefits:

  • SHA-2 encryption and 3072-bit or 4096-bit RSA key for security.
  • Issuance in 1-5 business days due to rigorous verification process.
  • Displays the publisher’s name and instantly establishes a reputation with the smart screen.
  • Eliminates all warning alerts.
  • Storage of the private key is on the external hardware and requires a PIN thus making it more secured.
  • 2FA (two-factor authentication) security for private keys makes it almost inaccessible to hackers.
  • The company address and other details are visible on this EV code signing certificate.
  • Compatibility by multiple platforms like Microsoft, Java, Adobe Air, and IOS applications are its added benefits.
  • Verifies publisher identity, and maintains software integrity.
  • Increase in user trust and conversion rates due to high downloads.

How Code Signing Works

To know how this digital certificate works, we need to explore its functioning from the developer’s end as well as the user’s end. Let’s commence with an example for a better understanding.

Example

Jack has developed an executable code that needs to be signed for security.

Steps to be taken by the Publisher

Step 1: He needs to buy a code signing certificate from a reputed CA.

Step 2: After the proper verification of owner identity and organization details, the CA will issue the certificate.

Step 3: Later on a publisher creates a one-way hash for the code and with the use of the private key, encrypts the same.

Step 4: He then attaches the hash as well as the code signing certificate with his executable code before placing it for commercial use.

Steps to be taken by the End-User

Step 1: The users need to utilize the public key which is stored in the certificate to decrypt the hash.

Step 2: Later, they need to create a new hash of the executable.

Step 3: After this, both the hashes are analyzed for similarity.

Step 4: In the case of a perfect match, the executable is authentic and not tampered with, but in case of mismatch, there is a chance that the executable is compromised and hence not safe for download.

How to Get Code Signing Certificate

The process comprises 3 basic steps.

How to Get Code Signing Certificate

CSR (Certificate Signing Request) Generation

Ensure that you use a web browser that supports the generation of CSR and private keys. Browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer 11 serve this purpose.

Steps:

Step 1: Open any of the above-stated browsers and go to codesigningstore.com.

Step 2: Enter your login credentials and in your website > go to certificate details.

Step 3: Click Next Step > Generate Certificate.

Step 4: Fill in the required details and click submit.

Step 5: Once done, your browser will create a key pair and send your CSR request to your CA.

Verification Process

When a publisher opts for an OV code signing certificate, the verification process involves:

Organization Authentication

The CA will authenticate the organization and prove its legitimacy to its users. Ensure that all your legal documents related to your company are up-to-date at the time of this process.

The CA verifies these details from the registered database lying with the government which proves that you’re a legit and registered entity. They may also check other legal registration documents to authenticate your company.

Locality Presence

They check the physical location of your organization and verify the registration details to confirm whether the address which you have stated is authentic or not.

Telephone Verification

The CA confirms your company’s landline number, by calling on your landline and also tallies the same with the telephone directory.

They also cross-check your phone number with the company’s name and address of your company in the directory.

Final Verification

This final call is made by the CA who calls you on your registered phone number and asks some simple questions about your business and other ownership details.

Downloading the Certificate

Once the CA is satisfied with the verification process, they will send an email consisting of a collection link of your code signing certificate.

Steps:

Step 1: In your desired browser, click the collection link from the email.

Step 2: The CA also issues JavaScript. This helps in the automatic restoration of the private key. The requested code signing certificate will be directly installed in the browser’s Certificate Manager folder.

Step 3: Export the certificate and the private key from your browser and save them on your local device.

Wrapping Up

Obtaining a code signing certificate is not a tough task. Simply, approach an authorized reseller like SSL2BUY, purchase a code signing certificate of any reputed brand, and sign your applications, drivers, executables, etc. digitally with this certificate for securing them against scammers.

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