Jason Parms

Regular code signing vs. EV code signing – both gives secure environment to developers for their software codes.

EV code signing keeps the private key secret using hardware token whereas in Regular code signing the private key is not provided in a separate external drive.

The use of technology has allowed us to lead simpler lives. There is a significant change in how we lead our daily lives. Everything is at our fingertips, and we can book cabs or even shop for groceries while chilling back at home. The penetration of smartphones is only leading to an increase in the download of mobile apps. In 2019, there were over 2 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store and around 1.83 million apps on the Apple App Store. Several applications are available for downloading over the internet using your computer terminal. There are several such unsafe software that preys on user data that is then used for fraudulent activities. Studies have shown that around 93% of mobile transactions across 20 countries were blocked due to fraud. There is a need to protect the users of applications from fraudulent software available over the internet. But how can it be done? It is where the Code Signing certificate can help.

The need for Code Signing certificate

Given the increasing number of online fraud incidents using malicious software, it is necessary to protect personal information and prevent it from falling into hackers’ hands. There has been an increased occurrence of malware spread across the internet. The process of code signing will help to prevent users from downloading unsafe software and fall prey to hackers. It will allow users to ascertain the origin of the software and have not been tampered with in the interim.

The user who wishes to download software may get an error message that the software they are trying to download is from an unknown developer.

code signing certificates warning massage

What are the various types of Code Signing certificates?

Two types of such certificates are available, viz.

  • Organization Validated Code Signing Certificate (Also known as Regular Code Signing Certificate)
  • Extended Validated (EV) Code Signing Certificate

What is EV Code Signing?

These certificates undergo a rigorous round of vetting from the CAs along with hardware security requirement. The stringent vetting ensures that the entity requesting the certificate is a registered entity that is still in operations. The entities must provide updated registration information to receive the certificate.

These certificates have a smart security system and are trusted by the Microsoft SmartScreen filter. As a result, the user gets protected against any malware downloads and phishing software. The EV Code Signing Certificates are ideal for applications, device drivers and executable programs.

Among this certificate’s unique characteristics is that the private key is physically mailed to the entity who has requested the certificate. It prevents any unauthorized access. You can store the private key in a safe location and prevents anyone from accessing it.

How does EV Code signing work?

When the software has been created, the developer must ensure it is hashed. It will help the users stay aware of whether the code has been tampered with by unauthorized people. In the next step, you must use the external token to take the private key and digitally sign the software along with a timestamp. It is an electronic signature that uses an encryption mechanism to ensure that a file or software’s authenticity is validated. The browser of the end-user can now know the credentials of the software developer.

EV Code Sign

What is the Regular Code Signing certificate?

A Regular code signing certificate uses a traditional vetting process that is not as severe as the Extended validation process of vetting the entity. The certificate is also handed out more quickly than the EV code signing certificate. The private key is not provided in a separate external drive making it accessible to more people. It is better for the software launched already. The geographically dispersed developers can easily use the private key to make authorized changes to the code.

How does the Regular Code Signing certificate work?

Let us now understand how the code signing certificates work. At first, you must purchase the certificate from one of the renowned certification authorities (CAs).

The actual signing process may differ across the CAs, but you must include your digital signature. It is a hashed string of data that will display your identity and check if the code has been altered or not. The developer must add a digital signature to the content or a piece of code. It is done by using a unique private key from a code signing certificate.

When any user downloads the signed code, the user’s system uses a public key for decrypting the signature. The system then looks for a root certificate to check whether it trusts and then authenticate the signature. If the user’s application trusts the root certificate and the hashes are matched, the download can continue.

code signing certificate

Benefits offered through EV code signing

No unauthorized access to the private key.

The private key is sent to you and is stored in a separate hardware token. It is sent to the entity over mail.

The Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition.

When the developer signs the code with any EV code signing certificates, the code will automatically receive Microsoft SmartScreen recognition.

Compatibility across platforms.

The EV code signing certificates can automatically update Microsoft Authenticode and the Kernel Mode once there is any change in the software code. Once the developer signs the driver package, the user can verify the entity which has developed the software.

It is affordable.

These certificates are priced within limits and can easily fit into your overall IT budget. There are multi-year packages too that can be cheaper and manageable also than renewing every year.

Difference between EV Code Signing and Regular Code Signing

Parameters EV Code Signing Certificate Regular Code Signing Certificate
Process of vetting followed The CAs have a more elaborate authentication process to validate the credentials of the developer. The strict CA/Browser forum guidelines are followed. The CAs have a more straightforward process of vetting and issuing the certificate.
Protection of the Private Key You are provided with an external hardware token, and all you have to do is protect it in a safe location. There is no fixed method to protect the private key. It varies across organizations and is usually the prerogative of the developers.
Microsoft SmartScreen filter Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition builds trust for software. When the developers sign the code with any EV code signing certificate, it will automatically receive the Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition. With a regular certificate, the SmartScreen reputation is built organically. As users download and install your software, the reputation gets built.
Usage Prerequisite for signing for Windows 10 kernel-mode drivers. You can use it to sign drivers preceding Windows 10 versions.
Issuance time Takes up to five days to be provided by the CA. You can receive the certificate within three days.
Pricing Higher price than a regular code signing certificate but provides better security features. Lower price than an EV code signing certificate.

 Below is a comparison of regular code signing and EV code signing from a same brand. We can see difference in different aspects including price, issuance time, validation types, other essential features. However, both types of Code Signing certificate supports major platforms that we can see to it from below table.

Comodo
Code Signing
Comodo
EV Code Signing
Price starts from $75.00/yr. $239.00/yr.
Add To cart Add To cart
Algorithm SHA-2 Enabled SHA-2 Enabled
Validation Type Organization Validation Full Organization Validation
Issuance Time 1-3 Business Days 1-5 Business Days
Microsoft’s SmartScreen Filter    
Two-factor Authentication    
Verified Publisher    
Microsoft Office & Microsoft VBA    
Microsoft Authenticode Signing    
Apple OS X Signing    
Java Signing    
Windows Phone Apps Signing    
Adobe Air Signing    
30 Days 100% Money Back    
Add To cart Add To cart

Conclusion

More people are using software to make their lives easier. However, not all software is genuine, and there is malware that may get downloaded too. Most of them are blocked by the applications used by the user through pop-ups. It is suggested that developers get hold of a code signing certificate to prevent such pop-ups and allow the user to authenticate the software is from a renowned developer and has not been tampered. The EV code signing model will provide additional security to developers to sign the developed software.