Types of Digital Certificates

Types of Digital Certificates
Types of Digital Certificates

Today, network security frameworks are incomplete without a digital certificate. Information travelling through the web needs to be protected. With digital bots and hackers all over the internet, it is definitely necessary to have strong protective tools handy with your server.

A digital certificate is one such digital tool. These digital certificates validate, encrypt, and authenticate information and access, and there are three different types of them! In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of the types of digital certificates!

What are Digital Certificates?

A digital certificate, also known as a public key certificate, is a digital document that authenticates the legitimacy and authority of a website or network. These certificates are also called digital identities since they authenticate the identity of the owner of that network, device, computer, or an individual.

This certificate ensures that only authorised devices or networks can contact or interact with this network. This is done with the help of two keys: public and private keys.

Entering the public key will encrypt the data while it is transmitted to the designated server, and entering the private key will decrypt the data on the device.

This is how a digital certificate works with cryptography and protects your data and files while they are in transmission. It is important to understand that this tool will keep any third party or intervention away from your sensitive data, which is paramount in today’s world.

There are 3 different types of digital identities or certificates. Let us discuss those now!

Types of Digital Certificates In Network Security

SSL/TLS Certificate

SSL stands for secure socket layer, and TLS stands for Transport Layer Security. SSL/TLS certificates ensure the security of communication between the user and the server on the World Wide Web.

What does it mean to secure communication online? It means that this certificate works so as to block any third-party intervention or observation in order to keep complete secrecy and confidentiality.

It is made possible with the help of encryption of data, as mentioned above. This is necessary since most online communication between organisations contains sensitive data.

One can apply SS/TLS certificates on websites, enabling the HTTPS feature for them. It secures login credentials, digital payment details, personal data, company data, etc.

Code Signing Certificate

Code signing certificates are the documents that sign the software code or even application code for organisations. Any application or software stands on the foundation of a legitimate code and is necessary for efficient and effective operations on the same.

What these codes do is they sign or seal the code of this application or software. This is necessary in order to authenticate the application’s code, saying it is not tampered with or has not been compromised.

These types of digital certificates are essential for software and application developers. They help software and application developers to distribute it to third parties, while also reducing the risk of malicious activities after download.

Client Certificate

The client certificate is used to certify or authorise/authenticate the client of a particular webpage to its server. It is the digital identity of the user/client, enabling the server to identify and verify the client/user’s identity. This will allow the server to grant the client access to personalised or private realms according to their level of authority.

This is necessary for the client and server communications that happen online. Even if the client and the server utilise VPN and secure email systems, the client certificate will enhance the security and allow authorised access to the users.

User Certificates

This certificate is used to verify the identity of the device or user that owns the certificate. Today, several programs allow you to authenticate yourself to networks or resources using certificates without the use of login credentials like usernames and passwords.

Authentication is done via a Digital Certificate Manager that automatically associates your user certificate issued by your private CA to your user profile.

Certificate authority (CA) Certificates

These certificates validate the certificate authority (CA) that owns the digital certificate. This type of digital certificate can be signed by another CA or can be self-signed.

This certificate contains the CA’s identity and the public key that others can use to verify the certificates the CA issues and signs.

Object-Signing Certificates

As the name suggests, this type of digital certificate is used to digitally “sign” an object to validate the object's integrity or prove your ownership over it. Object signing certificates are mostly used to verify CMD objects in integrated file systems.

When you use this certificate’s private key to sign an object, the recipient must have a copy of the matching signature to validate the signed object.

Signature-Verification Certificates

These are another branch of object signing certificates that do not possess a private key. Instead, the public key is used to validate the digital signature. This allows you to determine whether the object has been tampered with after it was signed.

Class 1/2/3 Certificates

Digital certificates can also be categorised depending on the security features the provide at each level:

  • Class 1: Sent to private individuals. These are mostly used for email verification to validate the username and email address to clearly identify them within the CA’s database.
  • Class 2: These certificates are for commercial, and personal use to verify that the user’s application does not contradict the data contained in recognised consumer databases.
  • Class 3: These are high-assurance certificates issued to organisations and individuals, mostly for E-commerce applications or high-value transactions where data threats are high. A Class 3 certificate is only issued in person and applicants must appear before the CA in person to be issued them.

How to Apply for Digital Certificates?

If you want to apply for a digital identity for your network for enhanced security and protection, you will need to follow a few steps. It is a very straightforward procedure to follow.

  1. First, you need to understand that specific entities provide you with digital certificates – A Certificate Authority (CA). Choosing the best CA is essential since the authority of your network will be determined by the standard of the CA that has authenticated you. You will know why this is the case in the further part of this section.
  2. You need to identify the type of certificate you need. The types are mentioned above! If you have a website, opt for an SSL certificate; if you have software, opt for a code signing certificate; and if you deal with client communication a lot, opt for a client certificate.
  3. Once that is done, you need to find the best possible CA to get your network authenticated. Some of the renowned CAs are Comodo or DigiCert. You will have to fill up the application form for your chosen type of certificate.

You can do that online on the CA website. Fill in the necessary details, like the  organisation’s name, domain, public key, contact information, etc.

4. The CA needs to know some other information for the verification and authentication procedure. This information will include the legal documents of the organisation and other relevant important information.

5. Once you submit these documents to the CA, the verification process will be initiated. The CA will review all of your documents and details for conducting the verification.

This decision by CA makes a big difference since the safety of every server they deal with is in their hands. This is why the standard and quality of the CA matter a lot.

6. If the CA sees your organisation and network fit for the digital certificate of authority and authentication, your application will be approved. If they deem it not safe and legitimate, the CA will decline the application.

7. You will have to pay for the digital certificate once it is approved. Once you make the payment, you will receive the document. After that, you have to install the certificate and run it on the organisation’s server.

Benefits of Digital Certificates

Server Authentication

The first and foremost benefit of a digital identity is the authentication it provides for your network or server. It identifies the authenticity and legitimacy of the individual, organisation, website, software, application, or computer.

This also ensures the authenticity of all the information and communication that happens online, building trust by ensuring that the entities involved in the transaction are the ones who they claim they are.

Data Encryption

With the help of technologies like cryptography, a digital certificate encrypts or encodes the information being transmitted to another server. Due to their encrypted format, these cryptographic algorithms prevent any kind of interception.

It makes the transmitted data unreadable to other entities, especially unauthorised parties. This is how these certificates build trust between the two participants.

Confidentiality and Integrity

Digital certificates use cryptography to transmit the message. This creates unreadability for unauthorised parties and increases or establishes secrecy and confidentiality.

It assures the integrity of the information and communication due to a lack of disturbance in the transmission. If the data has gone through any kind of change or tampering, the digital signature denies the information and unauthorises the user’s access.

Secure Operations

Online transactions need to be secured and protected, especially digital payments and the exchange of sensitive data because there is a risk of theft and breach any and everywhere.

With the help of the certificate’s cryptographic encryption, the communication between the server and users becomes confidential.

Reduced Risks

Websites that use SSL certificates are visibly secure since they carry the “https” tag behind them in the URL. Users can easily find secure websites with the help of these certificates.

This means that users will avoid websites without “https” in their URLs. This reduces the risk of phishing and spoofing, enabling secure transactions and operations with secure websites.

Data Verification

A digital certificate has a feature called a digital signature that verifies the legitimacy of the data that has been transmitted. The signature verifies the authenticity of the data and checks if it was tampered with in the communication or transfer process.

If the digital signature finds that the document has been tampered with, it denies the authentication. This helps in data verification and keeps the data authentic.

Enhance Security

All of the above points prove that a digital signature enhances the security of your network. But apart from that, it not only improves the communication in the transmission process of the transactions but also elevates email security.

Since email is a primary way of communication in businesses, it is important to have a secure email system. This certificate will ensure the safety and protection of your data through emails.

Summing It Up!

This blog mentions the types of digital certificates or identities available for network security and how they help secure your online transactions and communications.

Understanding the importance of such security tools and applying them to your network is necessary in today's age.

With reputed security service providers like Instasafe, you can enhance security and protect your network from unwanted attention. With our security solutions like Zero Trust Network Access and multi-factor authentication, you can improve your network’s security!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is there a difference between a digital certificate and a digital signature?

Yes! There is a fundamental difference of function between the two: digital certificate and signature. A digital certificate verifies and authenticates the identity of the user, and a signature verifies the authenticity of the data sent to the server.

2. What are the key elements of a digital certificate?

The public and private key, digital signature, and certificate authority are the three primary elements of a digital certificate.

3. Is there an expiration date for a digital certificate?

Yes! A digital certificate has an expiry date, and it becomes invalid after that.