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How Does EV Code Signing Certificate Works?

How Does EV Code Signing Certificate Works

Web developers use code signing certificates for digitally signing applications, scripts, executables, drivers, software, etc. These digitally signed applications/software ensure the end users that the app codes they have downloaded are not compromised or altered, i.e., the codes are authentic and secured.

All popular OS like MS Windows, Apple, etc. displays a warning message to end users in case they download software that is not secured with digital signatures.

Code Signing certificates are of two types: the OV Code Signing certificate and the EV Code Signing certificate.

This blog will discuss the EV Code Signing Certificate, its features, and its functioning.

What are EV Code Signing Certificates?

EV Code Signing Certificates Enhance User Trust and Confidence.

EV (Extended Validation) code signing certificates are digital X.509 certificates issued by a Certificate Authority (CA), just like SSL certificates.

But the only difference between SSL certificates and EV code signing certificates is that SSL certificates secure the web and data. In contrast, EV code signing certificates secure the software, driver, and app code.

EV code signing certificates are an excellent amalgamation of varied security benefits. This includes the benefits of digital signatures on codes, a thorough vetting process for strong security, fulfilling all code security needs, etc.

These certificates help verify the publisher’s authenticity when they sign their software/app since their name and the company name are visible on the software. This helps enhance user trust and confidence since they portray application/software integrity and authenticity. They also help bypass Microsoft SmartScreen warning alerts, thus clearing users’ doubts about the software’s credibility.

Various brands sell these certificates. Web developers can select the CA and brand per their budget and secure their applications.

For strong code security, all developers must buy a code signing certificate. But before that, let’s check out the functioning of this certificate and its benefits in the long run.

How does EV Code Signing Certificate Work?

EV code signing certificate is the sole solution to get a quick Application Reputation from Microsoft SmartScreen.

Many web developers are ignorant of the above fact, but the statement is true. How do these certificates function? How do they secure codes? These are doubts raised by many software publishers/developers.

Let’s discuss the entire process, from code validation to digital signatures on codes.

Sign your Code using External Hardware Token

You may have heard that the key to this certificate is stored on external hard drives. But how?

Lets’ go through the entire process and find out how this works.

Purchase Process of EV Code Signing Certificate:

The vetting process is the common factor in the purchase process of a regular code signing certificate or an EV code signing certificate. But the difference between the two is that the latter goes through an extensive vetting process by the CA. This process takes a time of 1-5 days.

Any lapse in providing the necessary documents may delay the issuance process or even lead to rejection for availing the certificate.

Private Keys on External Hardware:

There are OV (organization validation) signing certificates (regular code signing certificates) and EV code signing certificates, which almost share the same functioning, but have one significant difference: Private Key Storage.

In OV code signing certificates, the private key is not stored on an external drive; hence, it’s easily accessible to many people. In contrast, in EV code signing certificates, the private key is stored on an external hardware token, preventing hackers from accessing it.

Since this key is used for digitally signing applications and software, securing this key from intruders is vital. In case the key falls into the wrong hands, there are chances of insertion of malicious codes into the apps/software.

Storage of the key on external hardware token/ USB token prevents unauthorized personnel from accessing it and misusing it for digitally signing apps. It also reduces the chances of keys being compromised, misused, misplaced, or lost.

Note: Kindly place the external hardware token in a secure location.

ev code signing process

Functioning of EV Code Signing Certificates:

Hashing: After creating the software, the hashing process is initiated. When software is hashed, it ensures the end users that the software they intend to download is trustworthy and not compromised.

When software is tampered with, it will fail to indicate the correct hash values, which becomes a warning sign for the browser and users that the software is compromised and risky to download.

Signing: After the hashing process is over, the next step is the signing process. In the signing process, the external USB token, which has the private key stored on it, will be used for digitally signing applications, software codes, scripts, executables, etc. This key will also timestamp your software/application. When a code is timestamped, the signature will be valid even after the expiry of the certificate, but in the absence of timestamping, the signed Code will be invalid (expired), and you need to re-sign the same.

When software is signed digitally, the name of the publisher/developer of the software is displayed, and the users can easily judge the trustworthiness of the software.

In case of the absence of a digital signature, “Unknown Publisher” will be visible in the name field, which warns the users about the non-authenticity of the software.

Download: After the completion of the hashing process, the signing process, and the timestamping of the software, the download process commences.

Congrats!! Your software/application is ready for download

End-users can easily download your digitally signed and timestamped software without any hassles. Apart from users, well-known browsers, Adobe AIR, Java, Mac OS X 10.5+, and MS Office VBA are also ensured about the integrity of the software, and they trust such software wherein the publisher’s name is displayed.

Difference Between OV & EV Code Signing Certificates:

Apart from the storage of the private key, which is done on external hardware token in the case of EV certificates, some other differences include:

  • The rigorous vetting process of EV code signing certificates is compared to OV code signing certificates; hence, the issuance time of the former (1-5 days) is slightly more than the latter (1-3 days).
  • The price of an EV code signing certificate is high compared to a regular code signing certificate.
  • After digital signatures are placed, EV code signing certificates benefit from instant recognition of the Microsoft SmartScreen Filter. In the case of regular code signing certificates, the reputation is built after the download count.

Benefits of EV Code Signing Certificates:

Few vital benefits which make EV Code Signing Certificates more desirable are:

  • Secured location (external hardware token) of the private key
  • Instant Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition
  • Multiple platforms compatibility
  • Affordable and manageable
  • Displays software integrity and publishers’ authenticity
  • Enhances user trust and confidence

Final Words:

EV Code Signing certificates can be used on varied platforms, and their SHA-2 encryption and 3072-bit/4096-bit RSA keys instantly secure your software codes when digital signatures are placed on them.

End users are happy to visualize the company name and publisher’s identity and hence are ensured about the integrity of the software.

If you are launching your software and wish to gain instant Microsoft SmartScreen Recognition, an EV code signing certificate is a must. It not only prevents warning alerts but also ensures the reputation of your software.

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