What is a Software Publisher Certificate?

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Software publisher certificates are a game-changer for developers and publishers alike

In the ever-evolving digital world we live in, it’s crucial we take every measure possible to ensure we are operating with the highest security protocols and practices. This is no different when downloading, installing and running software. With so much personal information stored digitally, it is easy to see why users would decline to engage with a software if it rose any red flags. This is where software publisher certificates come in.

Software Publisher Certificate – The Quick Answer

A software publisher certificate (aka a code signing certificate) is a digital certificate that creates a digital shrink wrap over a software, app or device driver. This certificate will tamper proof your code, authenticate your identity and reduce warning messages.

3 Things a Software Publisher Certificate Does

1) Verifies Your Identity

Customer trust should be at the top of any software developer or publisher’s list of most important things. As we mentioned, if a user doesn’t trust your software – you aren’t going to get a download from that user. What may be even worse is if a user is looking for your software and comes across an imposter who is actually a hacker looking to use your brand to commit cybercrimes. Your brand reputation could take a major hit. 

Software publisher certificates combat this by giving user the ability to verify your identity. When you sign your code with your encrypted digital signature and private key, this gives users the ability to confirm they are downloading it from the intended publisher. This gives both you and the customer peace of mind.

2) Tamper-Proofs Your Code

It’s great that users will be able to verify your identity, but once your software is online – what is stopping a hacker for altering the code? The software publisher certificate got that one covered too. The certificate and private key are used to encrypt a hash of the software file. This ensures that the code is protected once its published.

This also protects users and your brand by ensuring that a malicious 3rd party does not tamper with the code.

3) Reduces Warning Messages

At the start of the blog we mentioned red flags, there may be no greater (and more annoying) red flag for software developers and publishers than warning messages. It’s surely a headache waiting to happen when your software triggers unexpected warning messages. Luckily, software publisher certificates can help ensure your software is trusted, removing the warning message.

Software publisher certificate warning

It is important to note that not all types of software publisher certificates will completely rid your software of being attached to every type of warning message (more on that in a bit).

Software Publisher Certificate Validation Types

There are generally three types of software publishing certificates you’ll come across (often referred to as code signing certificates). These are:

  • Individual Validation (IV) – Used by individual developers who are looking to publish their software under their personal name.
  • Organization Validation (OV) – Used by organizations (such as software publishing or development companies) who want to publish their software and sign code under their organization’s name.
  • Extended Validation (EV) – Similar to OV as it’s for organizations, but it is a higher level of validation, which means that you will need to go through a stricter validation process. While a more expensive cert, EV certificates come with some great advantages…

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The Advantages of an EV Software Publisher Certificate

EV (extended validation) software publisher certificates are generally more expensive than OV and IV certs, and you must go through a stricter authentication process, but they come with some great benefits.

  • More Security – Your certificate and encryption keys are sent via a physical USB device. This offers more security because you literally have your private key with you and code can only be signed by your certificate with that specific USB device.
  • Trusted by Microsoft’s SmartScreen Reputation Filter – As we mentioned earlier, not all software publisher certificates are created equally. While an IV and OV will get rid of many warning messages, they will not be instantly trusted by the ever-pesky Microsoft SmartScreen Reputation Filter. However, an EV certificate will gain trust instantly and remove all Microsoft SmartScreen warning messages.

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Final Word

Software publisher certificates are a great (and often-times necessary) addition to any developer or publisher’s toolkit. If you’re looking to purchase a software publisher certificate (known as code signing certificates as well), we have you covered right here on SectigoStore.com. With both OV and EV certificates, 24/7 customer support and excellent prices all from one of the most known and trusted CAs out there (Sectigo), you are sure to find the right software publisher certificate for you.