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Code Signing Certificate – Essential for Software Code Integrity

code signing certificate - essential for software code integrity

Sign software code and verify publisher’s identity with Code Signing Certificate, removes pesky warnings and instill trust in end users.

No one can surely deny that the Internet has revolutionized the way information is disseminated around the world. Today we are talking about digital strategies that are fast erasing traditional business models in every industry. Well, this is the main reason many software vendors have ditched the traditional ways of distributing products and services to go for online and wireless distribution channels. Talk of benefits like saving money, marketing applications with speed and bypassing the constraints associating with shipping on discs. This is actually very cool but on the downside, these digital channels present another huge hurdle to many vendors and developers; it is actually difficult for customers to trust applications distributed through the web!

In other words, your product may be super exciting but it doesn’t change the fact that customers tend to develop goose bumps when it comes to installing any code acquired online. No one can really blame them! It is all thanks to the escalating number of cyber criminals who can take advantage of authentic code to wreak havoc on people and companies. No wonder many customers feel confident when buying software from a physical environment where they can at least guarantee third party verification of the publisher coupled with the assurance that software has not been tampered with. Thankfully, there is a way to simulate this when distributing software online in what is known as code signing certificate.

What is Code Signing?

Code signing is simply a technique of using a certificate-based digital signature in signing executables and scripts in a bid to verify the identity of a publisher and to ensure that the code has not been corrupted. A Code Signing certificate allows you to sign code in a method similar to SSH and SSL. On requesting for a certificate, a public key pair is generated whereby the private key resides on the applicant’s machine whilst the public key is sent to the provider along with request then the provider issues the certificate.

This certificate is issued by a certificate authority (CA) and it has the information that verifies the identity of an entity. The CA is the heart of code signing thus the certificates has to be signed by a trusted organization using a secure public key infrastructure (PKI).

The Benefits of Code Signing Certificate to a Software Publisher

Perhaps the biggest benefit any software publisher can get from code signing certificate is to conglomerate trust in your online applications and software. This will not only help you sell more software online but it will also ensure that you respond well to evolving demands and opportunities. Code signing certificate  will also increase the time needed to market your software plus it will also aid you in distributing new applications and updates much faster.

Did we also mention that code signing certificate could be very vital in protecting your intellectual property meaning that cyber attackers will find it hard to use your company name to distribute fake software or even corrupt your code? You doubt how this could be of any help to you. Think of it this way, if the unverified software causes any damages to the user, then your business will not be responsible for it as per the warranty given by many CAs.

Such reassurances cannot be taken very lightly as device manufactures, network providers, and platform providers will easily accept your applications (compatibility) which will also translate to increased marketing channels and distribution. Code signing can also be a stepping-stone towards partnerships and sales contracts for your business.

Untrusted software can cause warning while running it and shows that the publisher of this software is not recognized or untrusted. In this way, a signed code will ease software running and installing too.

In case you are still not sure of why you need to code sign your apps then you may soon be forced to do so anyway. As a matter of fact, users are fast learning the need to go for signed applications. For instance, Windows Azure and Microsoft Windows Phone require that all code is signed before accepting them to their environments.

example code signing certificate

Best Practices for Code Signing Certificate

Now that you know the benefits of code signing certificate the other question we should answering is how do you maximize the value of code signing? Well, the following are the best practices to guide you through:

  • Ensure the Certificates Allow Time Stamping – Time stamps afford users the chance to assess if the code signing certificate was valid at the time of signing even after the certificate has elapsed. Time stamping is the gateway to saving your time and money on software you are not modifying-since you will no longer need to renew certificates.
  • Assign Every Developer a Certificate – It is common for companies to share certificates for the program they are working on but this actually the wrong way to go about it as far as security is concerned. It is always better to assign multiple certificates to make it very easy to keep track of changes made by every developer.
  • Sign Frequently – Signing code multiple times a day might be unnecessary but you are advised to at sign applications at every build on the very least.
  • Leverage certificates for Quality Assurance – If you are in a development environment where you do not use a continuous code build then you can designate a production certificate where every developer is given a self-signed certificate, trusted only by the development computers. After the code is ready, it can be signed with a code signing certificate tailored for the production environment thus preventing any untested code from being used for production.
  • Automate Code Signing with the publisher API – In case your development process uses a continuous code creation then you can throughout make use of the same certificate. This way, everything in testing will be synonymous with the client’s experience. Keeping this in mind, you can consider publisher API for a frequent code making cycle.
  • Use certificates from a top CA – Most users tend to trust brands with reputations when it comes when installing software. So, always go for certificates from market leading CAs rather than opting for certificates from smaller CAs.

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CONCLUSION

Code signing certificate is slowly panning out to be mandatory for every software publisher particularly in a transfer environment where proof of code integrity and publisher verification are on demand. Code signing certificate can be a very good foundation for any software publisher looking to gain an upper hand in the tightening market.

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