Downloadable Software Needs a Code Signing Certificate and Here’s Why
Downloadable software is hosted online and a large number of it is open source. These types of software are open to collaboration and thousands of developers may work on it. Thus, easy access to the source code makes it easier to tamper with the software. Hence, building trust and safety in these systems is crucial for a developer today. That is where a code signing certificate comes in.
What is a Code Signing Certificate?
A code signing certificate is a digital certificate that verifies the legitimacy of your code and software applications. There are two major reasons for code signing. First, it adds a layer of security to your software. This prevents modification and tampering from hackers and third-party entities. Second, it verifies the identity of the software publisher. This helps the publisher to maintain his brand and trust among customers. Hence, understanding why your downloadable software requires code signing is important for any developer today.
How Do Code Signing Certificates Work?
Code Signing Certificates work on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, which is one of the most common encryption techniques today. It consists of two cryptographic keys, the public key, and the private key. We use the private key for signing and it is available to the publisher only. The public key is available to anyone. However, we can only use it to verify the signatures and not for signing the software.
All the major steps that go into code signing for your downloadable software are given below:
Obtain a Certificate From a Certificate Authority (CA)
A code signing certificate is issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). First, the digital certificate applicant generates a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) in his own server or workstation. The CSR information about the public key, organization, email address, etc. Second, the CA receives the CSR and independently verifies the correctness of the information. Then, it digitally signs the certificate and issues a private key to the applicant.
Sign Your Code, Software Applications, and Executables
When your code is signed, a digital signature is generated. The signature contains information about the author and the timestamp. Simply stated, a digital signature is an encrypted string of values. The signature has a unique value when it is originally generated. Any alteration and change in the software will lead to a change in the signature’s value. The computer running the software can cross-check for this change in value and immediately notify the user about possible tampering.
Distribute Your Software Across Multiple Platforms
You can distribute your downloadable software across multiple platforms. When the end-user tries to download the software, the browser verifies the software and allows downloading without any warning or interruptions. Additionally, the operating system will show a pop-up message containing the software and the publisher’s name. This indicates that the software is from a safe and trustworthy source.
A Code Signing Certificate supports multiple desktop and mobile-based platforms. Desktop-based platforms include Microsoft Software and Applications, Linux Software and Applications, Apple OS X Software and Applications, Microsoft and Adobe Documents, etc. Mobile-based platforms include Java, Android, Windows Mobile, iOS applications, etc.
So, does your downloadable software require a code signing certificate? Absolutely yes.
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