Similarities and Differences between SSL and Code Signing Certificates

SSL and Code Signing Certificates may share similarities, but they are completely different from each other. Let us explore the factors that made them unidentical. 

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificate ensures that all the information shared on your domain is secured from all the known security threats. 


SSL certificates use public-key cryptography (asymmetric encryption) to encode all the data to keep it away from the reach of cybercriminals. 


  1. Public key: can be accessed by every web user to request a secure connection with the site having an SSL certificate. 
  2. Private key: kept hidden by the server and is used to decode the message received from the user’s browser.


In this way, a safe connection is set up between the two communicating parties that keep the attackers at bay. Only the individuals with the appropriate encryption/decryption keys can read the data shared between the user and the server.


A cheap SSL certificate displays the name of the entity or business that has acquired the license. It also helps the users to differentiate between a legitimate company and a fake one.


What is a Code Signing Certificate?


A code signing certificate provides protection just like an SSL certificate. But it does not encrypt the data – rather, it confirms a publisher or a developer's identity. It tells the users that the program or app is coming from a legitimate source, and no one has fiddled with it since it was first signed.


The users are notified by their firewall or antivirus program when installing a code from an unknown publisher. You would have seen this warning many times when downloading a code. This is because the program is coming from a malicious actor or interfered with after the signing process.


This certificate enable consumers to download authenticated program requiring a publisher’s signature. 


What are the similarities and differences between the code signing certificate vs. the SSL certificate?


Similarities between SSL and code signing certificates


  1.       Both the certificates are digital certificates used by websites or publishers to protect themselves and end-users from cybercriminals.
  2.       To issue any of these two certificates, the certification authority checks the information of the owner of the licenses.
  3.       Both SSL and code signing certificates utilize asymmetric encryption to provide protection.
  4.       Consumers see a security alert in the absence of a cheap SSL certificate or a code signing certificate.
  5.       Both the certificates are applied to serve the same purpose – security. Both certificates protect their users against cybercriminals.


These are the main points that are common to both, but they also have some significant dissimilarities. You need to know these even if you hire developers so that you will know how your website works. .


Code signing certificate vs. SSL certificate differences:


1.      Usage

Both certificates are used to secure end-users. 

  • Some web owners install a cheap SSL certificate to protect domains and the data shared between a server and the user. 
  • Software developers place a code signing certificate for digital signatures.


2.      Function

  • SSL certificates are used to establish a safe connection between a server and the end-user confidential details (email, password, banking, or credit card details) added to a site with a valid SSL certificate will be protected against all known cybersecurity threats. 
  • A code signing certificate cannot be utilized to encode the data-in-transit. Instead, it is used by app developers to apply a digital signature to their program. If the code or app gets altered, users will be notified by a warning that the code is not coming from a legitimate source.

If an attacker has changed the code, the publisher will also be notified to make the necessary changes and place a sign on the code again to protect it from severe problems.


3.      Identity validation

The certification authority (CA) confirms the authenticity of the owners of both the SSL and code signing certificates. However, the verification system is different. 

  • SSL certificates have different validations, and the verification is done based on the validation level certificate you have chosen. To issue a DV (Domain Validation) SSL certificate, CA only checks the applicant's right to use that domain. To grant an OV (Organization Validation) or EV (Extended Validation) SSL certificate, CA performs the business's complete investigation, its right to use the domain, physical address, phone verification, and more.
  • To issue a code signing certificate, the CA confirms your company's authenticity, existence, and phone number. If an individual developer has requested the certificate, then CA checks the applicant's ID issued by the government and completes the process with a phone call.


4.      Business Details

  • In the case of SSL certificates, when a consumer clicks on the padlock sign to know the details about the license and its owner, SSL type and business details are shown to the customers. This increases the trust of web users on your site and your firm, too, as it differentiates your business from fake ones. The extent of details, however, depends on the validation level of the license.
  • A code signing certificate allows the publishers to apply a unique digital signature to their program or application. It informs the buyers that the code is coming from a 


5.      Expiration

  • An SSL certificate gets expired after it has passed the duration time, and you need to renew it to keep enjoying the benefits that this certificate provides. 
  • In contrast, a code signing certificate has no expiry time if the publisher has utilized timestamping. The software does not show an unknown publisher warning even if the license has passed its duration. The only restriction for this to work is that the program should not be changed after signing.


6.      Warranty

  • Most SSL certificate providers offer a handsome warranty of the certificate in case of encryption failure. 
  • While code signing certificates generally do not provide such a warranty.




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