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EV Code Signing Certificate

EV Code Signing Certificate

Everything You Need to Know About EV Code Signing Certificate

Don’t know what an EV code signing certificate is? Learn more about them in this comprehensive guide and understand why they matter for digital security.

The purpose of code signing is to ensure that the code has not been tampered with and that it originates from a trusted source. Usually, the certificate is issued by the Certificate Authority (CA) with varying levels of validation such as Organization Validation (OV) and Extended Validation (EV).

An EV certificate takes the process of code signing a step further by providing additional validation of the publisher’s identity. In order to obtain a certificate, the Certificate Authority requires publishers to go through a rigorous validation process that includes a thorough background check of the organization and publisher identity.

This process is designed to provide a higher level of assurance to users that the software they are downloading comes from a trusted and reputable source. Once a certificate is issued, the publisher can use it to sign their code, which users and systems can verify to know that it comes from a trustworthy CA.

EV Code Signing Certificates are widely used in software development, particularly in the Windows and mobile application markets, to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the code.

What is EV Code Signing Certificate?

An Extended Validation or EV Code Signing Certificate is a type of digital certificate used to sign executable files and scripts. It’s a special type of security certificate that is used to authenticate the identity of the software publisher and to provide integrity for the software code.

It is used to sign executable files, device drivers, and scripts, making it possible for users to trust the authenticity of the software they are downloading and running. EV Code Signing Certificates are typically issued by a trusted certificate authority (CA) and are used to sign software code.

The main difference between an EV certificate and a standard or OV certificate is that an EV certificate requires a more rigorous vetting process to verify the identity of the software publisher. This process is intended to ensure that the software publisher is a legitimate organization and not a criminal or malicious entity.

The vetting process includes a thorough background check of the organization, as well as an in-depth examination of the organization’s business practices and reputation.

Once the vetting process completes and the legitimacy of an organization is determined, the CA will issue an EV Code Signing Certificate. This certificate contains the organization’s name, address, and other information, as well as a digital signature that is used to sign the software code.

When a user downloads and runs software that has been signed with an EV certificate, their computer will check the certificate to make sure that it is valid and has not been revoked. If the certificate is valid, the computer will then check the digital signature to make sure that the software code has not been tampered with.

If both the certificate and the digital signature are valid, the user can trust that the software is authentic and that it has been published by the organization as stated in the certificate.

EV code signing is intended to prevent malware and other malicious software from being distributed under the guise of a legitimate publisher. This is why EV certificates are important for users, as they can be sure that the software they are downloading and running is authentic and not malicious.

How Does EV Code Signing Work?

How Does EV Code Signing Work

Unlike other code signing certificates, here, the applicant has to go through rigorous vetting to prove the applicant’s legal existence. This validation can take five or more days depending on the lapses in submitting the required documents.

Once the application is approved, the CA will issue the certificate to the applicant and send the private key to the external USB drive. The EV certificate issuance process involves several steps, including the following:

  • Application for an EV Code Signing Certificate: The software publisher submits an application to a trusted certificate authority (CA) for an EV certificate. The application includes information about the organization, such as its name, address, and business practices.
  • Vetting Process: The CA conducts a thorough background check of the organization and examines its business practices and reputation. The CA also verifies the organization’s identity through various means, such as by visiting the organization’s physical location or by checking public records.
  • Issuance of an EV Code Signing Certificate: Once the CA has determined that the organization is legitimate, it will issue the certificate. This certificate contains the organization’s name, address, and other information, as well as a digital signature that is used to sign the software code.
  • Signing of the Software Code: The software publisher uses the EV certificate to sign the software code. This involves creating a digital signature using a private key associated with the EV certificate. The digital signature is then embedded in the software code.
  • Distribution of the Software: The software publisher distributes the signed software code to users. This can be done through various means, such as by posting it on a website for download or by including it on physical storage media.
  • Verification of the Software: When a user downloads and runs the software, their computer will check the EV Code Signing Certificate to ensure it’s valid. If the certificate is valid, the computer will then check the digital signature to make sure that the software code has not been tampered with. If both the certificate and the digital signature are valid, the user can trust the software and install the same.

Once the certificate is issued by a CA, the private key is physically mailed to the organization’s registered address with an external hardware token. This ensures no unauthorized person can access the private key and use it to sign the malicious software.

After the certificate is issued, the software signed process involves three stages:

  • Hashing: Here, the software is hashed, which lets users know if the software has been tampered with or not. When software download doesn’t produce the correct hash, the browsers will know it’s not legitimate and warn users from downloading and installing it.
  • Signing: In this step, the private key is used for digitally signing your software and timestamping it. Doing so lets browsers know the publisher of the software and whether it’s a trustworthy source or not.
  • Download: Once you’ve hashed, signed, and timestamped the certificate, it’s ready to publish online for users to download and install.

What Are the Benefits of an Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Certificates?

EV Code Signing Certificates provide a number of benefits to software publishers, users, and organizations. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Increased trust: EV code signing certificates help increase the trust in the software publisher and the software code. Since CAs perform a thorough background check and examine the business reputation of applicants, it helps ensure the publisher is a legitimate and trustworthy organization.
  • Improved security: EV certificates improve the security of software by providing a digital signature. This digital signature is created using a private key associated with the certificate and is embedded in the software code. When a user downloads and installs the application, their system checks the digital signature to ensure the code hasn’t been modified. This helps prevent malware and other malicious software from being distributed in the name of a trusted publisher.
  • Reduced warnings and error messages: When a user downloads and installs software signed with an EV certificate, their computer runs a check to authenticate certificate validity. If the certificate is found valid, users would see a message saying “verified publisher” instead of “unknown publisher”. This improves the user experience and reduces the likelihood of users abandoning the installation.
  • Reduced liability: EV code signing certificates reduce liability for software publishers and organizations. Since the software code is signed with an EV certificate, it can be argued that the software publisher and the organization took reasonable steps to ensure the authenticity of the software code.
  • Enhanced brand reputation: Software publishers who can demonstrate that they have taken the necessary steps to secure their software will have an enhanced brand reputation. This is particularly beneficial for their business as it increases the trust among their customers.

Features of Extended Validation Code Signing Certificates

Now that we have discussed all the benefits of using the EV code signing certificate for your business, let’s discuss all the features offered by it:

  1. Two-Factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional security measure to further secure the signing process and protect against unauthorized access to the private key. It adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of authentication. This second factor can be a physical token, such as a USB device and sent to you after you purchase the certificate.
  2. Digital Signature: EV Code Signing Certificates provide a digital signature for the software code, which helps ensure that the software code has not been tampered with and comes from a trusted source.
  3. Extended Validation: EV certificate applicants go through rigorous vetting, which includes a thorough background check and an in-depth examination of the organization’s business practices and reputation.
  4. Trust Indicator: EV code signing certificates can be used as a trust indicator for users, providing a higher level of trust to prevent malware and other malicious software from being distributed.
  5. Universal Compatibility: EV certificates are compatible with all the major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, making it easy for software publishers to sign their code for a wide range of users.
  6. Time stamping: EV certificates include a timestamping feature, which ensures that your digital signature stays valid even after the certificate expires.
  7. Revocation Check: EV code signing certificates can be checked for revocation, ensuring that the certificate has not been revoked or suspended by the issuing CA.
  8. Multi-platform support: EV certificates can be used to sign software across multiple platforms, including desktop, mobile, and IoT devices.

What Documents Are Required for Obtaining EV Code Signing Certificate?

The specific documents required for obtaining an EV code signing certificate can vary depending on the certificate authority (CA) and the country in which the organization is located. However, typically a CA will ask for the following documents:

  1. Enrollment form: It’s a form to apply for the EV code signing certificate. Usually, the CA will provide you with this form once you email them for the same.
  2. Organization Authentication: Business registration documents, such as articles of incorporation or a business license
  3. Operational Existence: The CA will ask for government-issued identification for the person responsible for the organization to check the active status of the organization.
  4. Physical Address: Proof of physical address, such as a utility bill or lease agreement
  5. A certificate signing request (CSR) generated by the organization
  6. Additional documents may be required to verify the organization’s business practices and reputation, such as financial statements, or proof of good standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Note that some of the documents may vary based on the certificate authority and the country of the organization.

What are the Multiple Platforms Supported by Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate?

EV code signing certificates are versatile and can be used to sign code for a wide range of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and others. This allows software publishers to sign their code for a wide range of users, regardless of the platform they are using. Here are some platforms supported by EV certificates:

  • Windows: EV certificates are used to sign code for Windows OS including Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and Windows Server.
  • Mac: EV certificates can be used to sign code for Mac operating systems, including macOS 10.13 and later.
  • Linux: You can use EV certificates to sign code for Linux operating systems, including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Red Hat.
  • Mobile: EV code signing certificates are also used for signing mobile apps of iOS and Android.
  • IoT devices: You can sign Internet of Things (IoT) devices software using the EV code signing certificate.
  • Java: Java applets, Java Web Start applications, and JavaFX applications can be signed using the EV certificates.

How Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Builds Reputation with Microsoft SmartScreen?

EV code signing certificates can help to build a reputation with Microsoft SmartScreen, a security feature built into the Windows operating system. The sole responsibility of this feature is to protect users from malware and other malicious software.

Microsoft SmartScreen uses a reputation-based system to evaluate the authenticity and trustworthiness of software. When a user attempts to download or run the software, SmartScreen checks the software against a list of known good and bad software. If the software has a good reputation, the user will not see any warning or error messages.

When a software publisher signs their software with an EV certificate, they can take advantage of the Microsoft SmartScreen. The certificate authority (CA) that issues the EV certificate will submit the certificate to Microsoft for inclusion in the Microsoft Root Store. This will help to establish the software publisher’s reputation with Microsoft SmartScreen.

When a user downloads and runs software signed with an EV code signing certificate, SmartScreen will check the validity of the certificate. If the certificate is valid, SmartScreen will then check the digital signature to ensure that the software has not been tampered with.

If both the certificate and the digital signature are valid, SmartScreen will establish a reputation for both publisher and software. As the software is downloaded and installed by more users, the software publisher’s reputation will grow, making it more likely that future downloads of the software will not be flagged as suspicious by SmartScreen.

What’s the Difference Between Standard Code Signing vs EV Code Signing?

Apart from the validation requirement, here are the differences between standard code signing and EV code signing:

FeatureStandard Code SigningEV Code Signing
Authentication of the software publisherVerifies the identity of the software publisherVerifies the identity of the software publisher through a more rigorous vetting process
Digital signatureProvides a digital signature for the softwareOffers a digital signature for the software
Extended validationNoYes
Trust indicatorNoYes
CompatibilityCompatible with all major operating systemsCompatible with all major operating systems
TimestampingYesYes
Revocation checkYesYes
Enhanced brand reputationNoYes
Reduced liabilityNoYes

Standard code signing certificates are used to authenticate the identity of the software publisher and to provide integrity for the software code. EV code signing certificates are similar but require more rigorous vetting to verify the identity of the software publisher. Additionally, EV certificates serve as a trust indicator, enhance brand reputation, and reduce liability.

Final Thoughts on EV Code Signing Certificate

In summary, EV code signing certificates are a special type of digital security certificate that provides a number of benefits to software publishers, users, and organizations.

They increase trust in the software publisher and the software code, improve security by providing a digital signature, reduce warnings and error messages, and reduce liability for software publishers. EV Code Signing Certificates also help to enhance the brand reputation of software publishers, which is beneficial for their business.

Further, the certificate offers a number of useful features such as 2FA, timestamping, universal compatibility, enhanced brand reputation, and support for multiple platforms. These features help to ensure that the software code is authentic and not malicious, providing a higher level of trust for users.

Frequently Asked Questions – EV Code Signing Certificates

1. Do I need EV code signing certificate?

Whether you need an EV code signing certificate depends on your specific use case and the level of trust and security you require for your software. EV code signing certificates provide enhanced trust and security through a more rigorous vetting process, but they may not be necessary for all software publishers.

2. What is EV code signing cloud?

EV code signing cloud is a service that allows software publishers to sign their code with an Extended Validation (EV) code signing certificate in the cloud, rather than on a physical token. This service enables software publishers to sign code remotely and automate the signing process, making it more efficient and convenient.

3. How long does it take to get an EV code signing certificate?

The time it takes to get an EV code signing certificate can vary depending on the certificate authority (CA) and the level of vetting required. Typically, it can take 1-5 days or more to get an EV certificate.

4. What is the difference between OV and EV code signing?

The main difference between OV and EV code signing is the level of vetting and authentication required to obtain the certificate. OV requires basic information verification of the organization, while EV requires a more in-depth examination of the organization’s business practices and reputation. EV provides a higher level of trust and security.

5. How do I know if my code signing certificate is EV?

You can check if your code signing certificate is EV by looking at the certificate properties or examining the certificate signing request. An EV certificate will have specific fields that indicate the level of validation, such as “Extended Validation” or “EV” in the certificate. Also, the certificate will have more information about the organization than the OV certificate.

6. How to use EV code signing certificate?

To use an EV code signing certificate, you need to first obtain the certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA). Then you will use the certificate and the private key associated with it to sign your software code. Once the code is signed, you can distribute it to users and they will be able to verify the authenticity of the software by checking the certificate and the digital signature.

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