What’s the Difference – Code Signing vs. EV Code Signing Certificate

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Code Signing Certificate: What is it, What are the Types & How it Differs

There’s tremendous growth in the use of the software. And as the technology is evolving, so as the threat towards it and no doubt, software and applications are also among them. Therefore, users need to know that software which they have downloaded or are using is coming from you and not any third-party masked as you.

And, they also have the right to know that it’s genuine and has not been altered, for instance, having malware inserted. To solve these issues, Code Signing is the answer. It helps your customer know that your company is the publisher of the software they have downloaded and no one has modified it since your signing.

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What is Code Signing Certificate & Why You Need It?

Code Signing Certificates are one of the most useful digital signature certificates which use x.509 based certificates. It’s used by software developers and organizations to sign their software programs, drivers, and applications to confirm the users that it’s genuine and reliable.

Also, it helps in providing the integrity of the software like shrink wrap on a CD purchased from a store, which helps in ensuring that the downloaded software hasn’t tampered.

On the other hand, if you do not sign your software or application, it stays vulnerable to attacks. For example, an intruder can add their malicious code into your software and can get away quickly, as your users won’t get any warning that it’s not original.

Different Types of Code Signing Certificate

Till date, two different types of Code Signing Certificates are available,
  1. Organization Validated (OV) Code Signing Certificate (Also known as Standard/Regular Code Signing Certificate)
  2. Extended Validated (EV) Code Signing Certificate
So, let’s see what they are and how they differ with each other.

Regular Code Signing Certificate – What is it & When it Can be Used?

Organization Validated also called as Standard Code Signing Certificates are issued with a standard vetting process, like Organization Validated SSL Certificate. Here, the certificate is provided quickly compared to EV Code Signing Certificate, and its private key is NOT stored separately, making the protection responsibility of the developer.

It’s one of the right choices if you have recently launched your software and it’s in a testing phase. For example, to know how well it works among your users. Also, it will be a good choice, if you’re any individual software developer, and you’re not bothered about the time your software takes to build its reputation in Microsoft SmartScreen filter.

Regular Code Signing Certificate Mechanism

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What is EV Code Signing Certificate?

EV Code Signing, an abbreviation of Extended Validated Code Signing, is a code signing certificate where it’s mandatory to vet the publisher’s identity which is similar to the vetting process of EV SSL Certificate, as the buyer has to provide all the asked documents to prove their identity.

Also, the Private keys of the EV Code Signing Certificates are provided separately on a hardware token to avoid any unauthorized usage.

What are the Features & Benefits EV Code Signing?

EV Code Signing provides all the benefits of a standard code signing and also offer other security features which help in increasing the security and customer trust. Below are some of the EV Code Signing advantage:

1. 2FA (Two Factor Authentication)

As mentioned above, the Private Keys are stored separately on a USB device (hardware token), which is sent to you through the mail, once you purchase the certificate. Hence, this physical device works like two-factor authentication, as this device is needed whenever you try to sign code using Extended Validated Code Signing Certificate, which gives surety that no one gains unauthorized access to your certificate.

2. Instant Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition

As the name implies, using EV Code Signing Certificate, you will receive the Reputation provided by Microsoft SmartScreen, the moment you sign your code with EV Code Signing. Microsoft will view you in a respected way. Hence, leading to reduced warnings messages and increased brand reputation while growing the end-user trust and conversions.

3. HSM (Hardware Security Modules) Support

Extended Validated Code Signing Certificate is HSMs friendly. Yes, it’s possible to install on HSM from which you can have better control over the certificate and its private key. Moreover, if other people of your organization have access to the HSM, they can also make use of that EV Code Signing Certificate for signing the code.

4. Compatible with Multiple Platforms

The EV Code Signing Certificate can automatically update for different platforms like Kernel Mode and Microsoft Authenticode, whenever you make any change in the file.

5. Effective & Affordable

Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate is expensive compared to Standard Code Signing, but it’s a budget-friendly. You may be doubting but look through the benefits it gives. An instant Microsoft Smart Screen trust and other possibilities like getting stuck with the warning message is almost null. So, it does makes it reasonable.

Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate Mechanism

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Regular Code Signing vs EV Code Signing Certificate

Let’s take a look at below comparison table between Code Signing vs EV Code Signing certificate:
Regular Code Signing Extended Validated Code Signing
It offers a simple and quick standard vetting process. It is issued after a thorough and vigorous vetting of the publisher, by following the strict regulations made by the CA/Browser forum guidelines.
The protection of private key is in the hand of developers as it’s stored in their workstation. The private key is provided in an external hardware token, which helps in preventing unauthorized access.
Takes time to build the Microsoft SmartScreen filter trust, depending upon the number of downloads and other factors. It builds Microsoft SmartScreen filter trust instantly.
Issuance time can take anywhere between 1 to 3 days. Issuance time can take anywhere between 1 to 5 days.
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