Code Signing Certificate: Security for Software and Application

Code Signing Certificate:  Security for Software and Application

You can find computers in virtually all aspects of our lives nowadays. If you look at transportation, buses, cars, trains, aeroplanes – all make use of computing power, some more than others. Mobiles phones, tablets and laptops are just plain incarnations of what used to be huge mainframes in the past, bringing the power of computing to the palm of your hands. The use of computers has transformed even household items such as televisions and refrigerators. In this article, we will cover the importance of the Code Signing Certificate. Keep reading to learn on how to keep safe.

Code Signing Certificate

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The magic behind all the fancy UIs and services offered by these systems can be summed up in one word – “Code”. Code is the foundation of all computers, controlling the what and how of all functionality. Modern devices are not static anymore, they are being kept up to date with new software releases, and sometimes, you do not even know when it happens.

Do you know where the code is coming from?

It is scary even to consider that the code that controls your car, phone and other household items may be downloaded and installed at any time, and you may not even know about it. Who wrote the code? Are you aware?  Can your friend tell you?

And most importantly, can your computer tell?

can your computer tell

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We rely so much on these machines and gadgets – can they make out the source of the code that runs the software and applications they host? How do they figure out if the code is legitimate? Can it be trusted to be safe?

Security for Software and Application

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There must be a solution, right? And the answer is Code Signing Certificate.

What is Code Signing Certificate?

What is Code Signing Certificate

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Code Signing Certificate is a digital signature that is applied to the code of a software/application to protect it from tampering. It makes use of sophisticated mathematical formulae to attach a digital identity of the author who wrote or distributed the code. This guarantees the legitimacy of the code and builds your trust in the author or distributor of the software.

The problem – from the perspective of the software developer/distributor

You developed code gets circulated all around the world – your users depend on you for their software and applications; they trust your code. Have you wondered if your end users get the exact code you distributed?

if your end users get the exact code you distributedThis is a tough question to answer if you are distributing code without signing it. Some “drive-by download” sites may get hold of a copy of your software and start spreading your code bundled with adware. Someone with evil intent may upload your application to a warez website so people can get it for free, but they throw in some malware as part of the process. If the software you develop or distribute is popular in the masses, the malware distributor has hit the jackpot – they can hide their malicious application behind the name of your file, a straightforward case of bait and switch.

And it is not just you, even your customers find it impossible to decide it the code they received is legitimate and can be trusted.

The associated risks are real – unsigned code can be and does get used by hackers for launching cyber-attacks all the time. Historically, impersonating hazardous code as safe, that users may run on their computers, has been a popular distribution method for spreading malware. A lot of people look for popular software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop online and malware distributors take full advantage of this. It is hard to find someone who has never downloaded an application from a dubious source; everyone knows someone who has ended up being infected after running “free” software.

How does Code Signing work?

When you enrol for code signing certificate, you need to create private and public key and submit public key to certificate authority along with the documentation to verify your identity. When your CA (certificate authority) validates the data you have given already, they issue a code signing certificate and such certificate contains organization name, public key. You can use this certificate to sign software code and content until the certificate gets expired.

Deployment Signed Code:

  • A software developer signs a file or content with a private key from a code signing certificate.
  • When a user faces signed code, his/her software/application utilizes a public key to decrypt the signature.
  • Now, the system will find a root certificate for identity trust so it can authenticate the signature.
  • After that, the system will compare both hashes that were used to sign the application and found on downloaded application.
  • If both hashes match and root certificate as well is verified, then the download of software resumes.

Deployment Signed Code

  • You can check the certificate details by right click the executable file and click on Properties option. As you can see that in below image the certificate is issued by VeriSign:

Code Signing Certificate VeriSign

  • On opposite, if the system can not verify the root certificate or both hashes do not match, the system put the download on hold with a warning showing below or download fails in such case.

download fails in such case

Finally, remember that developing and distributing software makes you part of not only a vast ecosystem of users, computers, and other devices but bad actors as well. The weakest links in the distribution chain will be under constant attack, and security requirements and expectations will always be increasing. Stay ahead of the curve by adopting code signing for all your applications. Your users will appreciate it, and when attacks are prevented, you will be relieved.

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About Ana Maria De La Cruz

Ana Maria De La Cruz
Hi, I’m Ana Maria De La Cruz, a Content Marketing Specialist. I help businesses gain web exposure and build brand awareness. Our job is to write positively and to spread the word about client’s products/services, post the content in relevant blogs and share it across many social media networks. Need our help, contact us at anamaria @