When you use digital devices and resources, there are plenty of good reasons to be concerned about data protection. Your highly confidential data can be threatened or tampered with due to minor carelessness.
In your constant pursuit of data protection, you will most likely have come across the terms SSL certificate and Code Signing certificate. Both of them are associated with data security.
However, they are not the same and have different purposes and usage scenarios. This article will take a deep look at those aspects.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the differences, let’s first try to understand each of them individually.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL is the abbreviation of Secure Socket Layer. It is a security protocol used to enhance website security. When you purchase an SSL certificate for a website, it executes two essential security tasks.
Firstly, it will encrypt the data that is being transferred during a browsing session. When you open your browser and load a website, a connection between your browser and the server on which the website is hosted is established in the backend.
Whatever information you add to the website is transferred to the server, and whatever information the server keeps about the website is brought into your browser at your request. During this data transmission stage, hackers can interrupt in the middle and leak or tamper with the data.
So, there is a high requirement for a secure connection between these two data terminals. By installing an SSL certificate on the website, you could encrypt the data so that hackers won’t be able to interpret them.
Secondly, when you decide to use an SSL certificate for a website, the certificate authority will verify that you are the actual owner of the website. In addition to the authentication verification, they will verify your whereabouts, such as your physical address and phone number, to ensure the authenticity of the website as well as the business that it represents.
What is a Code Signing certificate?
A Code Signing certificate verifies and authenticates the software publisher or developer’s identity. This will give the software users assurance that the software’s genuineness and that it has not been tampered with or modified. To do that, developers must purchase a Code Signing certificate and apply it to the software.
How to know if the software I am using is authentic?
Suppose you use an updated web browser or a reliable antivirus program on your computer. In that case, there is nothing to worry about it. Because both have features to detect unsigned software (software that has not been applied with a digital signature).
As you try to download a piece of software, you will receive a warning saying, “Do you want to allow this app from an unknown publisher to make changes to your device?” If you face such a message on your PC, you should act wisely and avoid downloading such software, app, or driver.
Key differences between Code Signing and SSL certificate
Now that you have a clear picture of Code Signing and SSL certificates. Now, let us try to understand the key differences between them.
- While you require an SSL certificate, Code Signing is not required for a website. It is a requirement for downloadable software, executables, and scripts.
- You cannot enhance the security of downloadable software with an SSL certificate. Likewise, using a Code Signing certificate, you cannot encrypt data transmission between the website and server.
- It is the job of the website owner to install SSL certificates on his website. If you are just a website user, all you can do is stay away from websites not secured with SSL certificates. Similarly, if you have to download and install software on your device, do not proceed if you receive the warning sign mentioned earlier.
- There are different types of SSL certificates to choose from depending on your website type and the security requirement. For instance, multi-domain SSL certificates, single domain SSL certificates, and wildcard SSL certificates, to name a few. There are two types of code signing certificates depending upon validation types Organization validation Code Signing certificate and EV Code Signing certificate.
- There is no warranty for code signing, whereas SSL certificates from some authorities cover a warranty of up to USD 1.75 million.
- SSL certificate ensures that the data that is being transferred is encrypted during an active session between your browser and the server. When it comes to Code Signing certificates, it works differently. It does not do any encryption. Instead, it hashes the codes used in the downloadable software, codes, or executables. It means a digital signature is applied to all the coding. No one can modify the software without touching on the coding, which has the digital signature in it. And when anyone tries to tamper with the coding, the attempt will quickly get detected and aborted.
- SSL certificate comes with a validity period. After the validity expires, you will have to renew it or keep receiving renewal notifications and security warnings. In the case of a Code Signing certificate, you have a different feature called timestamping. After a certain period, the software developer or publisher might add a timestamp to it if they still want to support the software. Users can get this timestamp and continue using the software. Remember that your software will lose the digital signature and become vulnerable if it fails to add the timestamp.
In short, both SSL certificates and Code Signing certificates are essential security protocols. While SSL adds security to the website, a Code Signing certificate adds security to the software. From a user perspective, you need to verify that both these protocols are implemented for the website and software you rely on.