What Are Code Signing Certificates and Why Use Them?

Many of us use different software for a variety of activities. It is necessary to ensure that you download authentic software. As mobile users increase, there are more mobile app downloads. The number of mobile app downloads is expected to reach 250 billion by 2022. There has been an increase in the number of cases where users have downloaded malware. 

Most businesses with a robust IT policy allow their employees to download only authentic software. But can you be sure that you are downloading secure software? 

It would help if you were acquainted with a pop-up that requests us to confirm whether we would continue to download the software. The pop-up contains the software developer’s name, and the user can check whether it is coming from a renowned entity. 

It is where the code signing certificate is in vogue. This article will discuss code signing certificates and their various aspects.

Decoding a code signing certificate

It is a digital certificate that allows identifying the reliable developer of any software, device drivers, executables, applications, etc. Software developers use this certificate to assert that the software application or mobile app being downloaded has not been tampered with by any unauthorized third party. Otherwise, users may receive a warning about the origin of the software.

(Source: https://www.ssl2buy.com/wiki/what-is-code-signing-certificate-how-does-it-work) 

The code signing certificate allows a developer to sign the software that was created. The certificate uses PKI technology and involves a public-private key combination to bind the identity of the developer. A reliable certificate will include the name of the developer or the organization and the digital signature. Timestamps can be included too.

Types of Code Signing Certificates

There are two types of code signing certificates, viz.

Organization Validation Code Signing Certificates

The Certificate Authority (CA) will assess whether your entity is a valid entity with proper documentation in place through this certificate. Mostly, the CA will get it done through any government database that is available online. The details provided on the government portal must be the same as those provided by you. 

The CA can also accept the Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Credit Report or the registration documents you provided. You can also give a letter duly signed by a lawyer or an accountant.

EV Code Signing Certificates

The EV Code Signing certificate will allow users to have greater faith in your software. The CA undertakes a rigorous validation procedure to provide this certificate. A rigid hardware security requirement must be in place. The private keys are also stored externally, which acts as another layer of security for you.

The encrypted token is stored externally in a USB that ensures better authentication. The developer can also use a timestamp to ensure that the software’s signature does not expire after the certificate’s expiry. It also helps to gather a trusted status on the Microsoft Defender SmartScreen® Reputation filter.

Why is the Code Signing Certificate necessary?

Vouches for the software integrity

The process of code signing uses a hash function that is used to sign the code. It is then matched at the destination. Once there is a match, the integrity of the code can be confirmed. The verification can be done using a timestamp too. 

The code signing certificate can help the user confirm that the software has not been tampered with by any third party. It showcases the name of the developer on a pop-up. 

This will allow the user to confirm the identity of the developer before downloading the software.

Improved monetization of the software

The use of a code signing certificate enthuses a sense of trust in the minds of the user. Before downloading the software, it confirms that the software is authentic, increasing the number of downloads of the software or mobile app. 

There have been incidents of malware being downloaded due to the absence of any digital certificate. The use of these certificates will prevent malware’s proliferation and ensure only genuine software is being downloaded. In a way, it also helps in the monetization of the software.

Ensures a safer and enhanced user experience

These digital certificates act as a confirmation for genuine software. It acts as a safeguard against malware and improves user experience. The users can be confident that the software they are downloading is real. A smooth user experience is possible with a code signing certificate due to reduced warnings about the software.

Several browsers prefer a digital certificate to ensure that the software being downloaded is genuine. The code signing process is also available on several platforms, like Windows, Adobe AIR, Linux, Apple iOS, Android, etc.

How do Code Signing Certificates work?

When you purchase a code signing certificate, the CA will do the necessary assessments before moving forward. When the certificate is provided, the developer can sign the software and executables. First, the developer will hash the software. It is encoded with the developer’s private key and the digital certificate with its identity and the public key.

(Source: https://www.ssl2buy.com/wiki/what-is-code-signing-certificate-how-does-it-work)    

When a user tries to download software, the public key of the CA is used. It is assessed if the certificate is authentic and whether it is from a renowned CA. The public key of the developer is used for the decryption of the hash. A new hash of the software is created. The hashes are compared, and if they match, it is confirmed that the software has not been tampered with.

How to view the certificate?

It has become necessary to use a code signing certificate from a renowned CA to sign your software. Else, there could be a warning about the software coming from an unknown developer. As a user, you can quickly check the details of the certificate.

If you are using Windows, you have to right-click on the file you wish to check. Then click on “Properties” and then the “Digital Signatures” tab. The details of the signature will be provided below.

(Source: https://www.ssl2buy.com/wiki/how-to-view-ssl-certificate-details-in-chrome-firefox-ie-microsoft-edge-vivaldi)

Code signing helps to prove the integrity of the software.

The code signing procedure helps to show that the software or mobile app originated from a specific developer. It helps to remove any security warnings and identifies the origin of the software. The software’s integrity is confirmed and ideal for allowing users to trust the software being downloaded.

Developers can improve their brand equity by showcasing that their software is genuine and has not been tampered with by unauthorized sources. It can increase the number of downloads, and browsers will not exhibit any message stating “Unknown Publisher.”

Conclusion

An increase has been noted when malware has been downloaded while users tried to download any software or mobile app. It leads to a loss of trust in the minds of the user too. Software developers must devise ways to understand the origin of the software, and the warnings are removed.

The process of code signing can help. When the developer signs the code using a code signing certificate, the user can also understand its origin. So, it also enthuses trust in the minds of the user. The developer can also ensure more downloads and therefore monetize them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *