SBN Code Signing with Digital Certificates: Explained

A pop-up warning.

Imagine you’re installing such an application (such as Word or Facebook), and a pop-up like the screenshot above comes up. How can you be sure that the application you’re about to download is really safe?

The answer comes from code signing certificates, which help end-users ensure that the only entity that has had access to their new software is the software developer. Code signing certificates prevent security warnings, like the one above, from stifling the user experience. SecureW2 offers a turnkey PKI solution with #1 rated certificate delivery so you can take advantage of code signing certificates. Learn from one of our customers how easy our PKI solution is to configure.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at code signing certificates and explain how they work and why they are so important.


Understanding a Code Signing Certificate

Code signing is done by putting a digital signing on an executable, software update, or file. The certificate confirms that the program has not been tempered and the software is safe for download.

You can think of it as a wax seal on a food product.  If the seal is intact, you can be certain that the food hasn’t been tampered with by an outside source.  Apple developers use code signing to prove, for instance, that your macOS update actually came from Apple, and not a hacker who is trying to compromise your computer.

All major operating systems and browsers and OSs support code-signing software.


How Does Code Signing Work?

In order to understand code signing, first, you need to understand what a PKI is.

The purpose of a PKI is to manage the public keys used by the network for public-key encryption, identity management, certificate distribution, certificate revocation, and certificate management.

A PKI allows users and systems to verify the legitimacy of certificate-holding entities and securely exchange information between them over the air. The introduction of a PKI enables the use of code signing certificates through public-key encryption.

The process for code signing is as follows:

  1. A developer uses a PKI (like SecureW2) to add a digital signature to a code signing certificate.
  2. A user has a public key that is used to decode the signature. The user’s software or application decodes the signature using the key.
  3. Then a software searches for a root certificate with verified identity to validate the applied signature.
  4. The software system then applies a hash to the download of the application and another hash to sign the code.
  5. If the root and hashes match, the download continues.
  6. If the root and hashes do not match, the download will be interrupted and shows a warning.

A diagram for how code signing works.

Benefits of Code Signing Certificates

Using code signing certificates is a must if you want to maximize user experience and security. The benefits are the following :

  • Validating Code Integrity
  • Preserving Company Reputation
  • Integration with All Major Operating Systems

Validates Code Integrity

Code signing provides an integrity check of the code by validating it with a hash function. The hash function is used at the source to sign the code and the same hash has to be matched at the destination. This provides the user with proof that the code has remained unchanged.

Preserves Company Reputation

When users download a piece of software and are immediately issued a warning, it can ruin the mood a little bit. Users need to be able to trust your software if you want them to continue to be your customer, and an untimely warning can damage that trust.

Code signing certificates allow your customers to trust in your software and bolster your public reputation.

Integration with All Major Operating Systems

Code signing processes are encouraged by all major platforms such as Apple iOS, Windows, Linux, Android, JAVA, Adobe AIR, etc. The partners, channels, and platforms that distribute your software expect you to safeguard their customers’ data. Signing software shows your commitment to their safety and is often a contractual requirement.


Types of Code Signing Certificates

There are two types of code signing certificates — OV or standard code signing certificates and EV code signing certificates.

OV Certificates confirm the existence of the organization. To get an OV certificate, a company must complete the validation process. During validation, the certification center must ensure the legal and physical existence of the company.

EV Certificates offer the same solution as an OV certificate, but EV code signing keeps the private key secret using a hardware token whereas in regular code signing the private key is not provided in a separate external drive.

In general, both offer the same thing:  signing software, scripts, drivers, or any other executable files using x.509 based certificates that are attached to a trusted root. EV certificates just have a more rigorous protocol behind them.  A benefit of this is that an EV code signing certificate offers an immediate reputation with Microsoft SmartScreen, so your users will never have to click through a SmartScreen warning in Windows.


Code Signing Certificates With SecureW2

Code signing certificates are an essential part of software development and a way to prove your commitment to security to end-users, but making sure you have the proper tools to utilize them is paramount to success.

In the past, IT professionals have chosen to avoid implementing certificates because the thought of managing a PKI was too big a hassle. With SecureW2’s PKI solution, you get everything you need to secure your network, without any of the usual headaches like massive infrastructure changes or lengthy deployments.

We can integrate with any environment and our team of professionals will always be there to answer any questions you may have. Click here to see how we can be of assistance today.



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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from SecureW2 authored by Eytan Raphaely. Read the original post at: