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Code Signing- Benefits and Basics

What is Code Signing?

Code signing is the process of authenticating software code/application/program/scripts to confirm the source of origin of the publisher and assure that the code has not been tampered or altered since it was signed.

Certificate Authorities (CA) confirm code signing source identity and bind their public key to a code signing certificate. This certificate enables validation of code sign with an authentic root certificate. Performing code sign will cater below three functions:

  • Provides authentication of code
  • Provides cryptographic protection
  • Software/code author validation

Top 5 benefits of “Code Signing”:

Let us take a look into the top 5 benefits users can enjoy by using “Code signing”:

  1. Validates code integrity: Code signing provides integrity check of the code using hash function. Hash function is used at the source to sign the code and the same hash has to be matched at the destination. This provides proof of code integrity. If the hash is not matched, users would either receive a security warning or code will fail to download.

    Verification can be performed using timestamp as well. Code signing certificates might include optional time stamp. Time stamp data strip is included along with signature during the time of signature. This process ensures the validity of certificate at the time of signature.

  2. Issuing company reputation and authenticity:Using code signing process for authentication and validation of software, code and/or programs eliminates the risk of program corruption and tampering. This will safeguard the company’s reputation as well as intellectual property.

    Enhancing trust on both sides of the transaction, companies can be more benefitted with customers trusting their software programs, files etc. for download. With increase in reputation one can expect considerable increase in customer loyalty.

  3. Increase in revenue:Now a days, software publishers and network platform provides are increasingly mandating code signing process from a trusted source/certificate authority (CA) for distribution of software among users.

    This is even more beneficial for small companies or individual developers to gain trust among customers through authenticity and increase their brand presence as well as revenue.

  4. Safe and secure user experience:As already discussed in one of the points mentioned above, Code signing process builds mutual trust amongst both the parties i.e. vendor as well as consumer. On top of it, customers who use code signed software or files can be sure of security as the code is properly authenticated and validated which prevents code tampering.

    Also, using code signing provides smooth user experience as there will be minimized security warnings and installation failures when code is signed by trusted certificate authority.

  5. Seamless integration with multiple platforms:Code signing process is now available on multiple platforms such as Apple iOS, Windows, Linux, Android, JAVA, Adobe AIR etc. Many of these platforms highly recommend code signing process for code distribution.

    Many browsers would require code signed using certificate from trusted certificate authority and reject any action commands provided through untrusted sources. One interesting fact is, Microsoft office macros and Firefox browser extensions also require code signing.

If your organization is looking for implementation of Code signing, please consult [email protected] for further information

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About the Author

Anish Bhattacharya is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs, creating Google Cloud applications, and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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