All you need to know about Code Signing SSL Certificates

Protect enterprise apps with Code Signing SSL Certificates

Downloading software programs from the web is a common practice nowadays since almost everyone owns a computer, laptop or a Mac. But the rapid growth of the number of software programs and the proliferation of malware through downloadable software became major concerns.

Therefore, users rely on software developers who must protect their software products from being infected with malware and then distributed to masses of people via the web.

Code Signing SSL Certificates were created to prevent software from being tampered and compromised. These certificates give the software a greater level of trustworthiness by ensuring users that the digital content is safe and belongs to the company that created the software.

For this reason, a Code Signing SSL Certificate is an indispensable attribute for any software developer or company, as it preserves the developer or company’s reputation and intellectual property.

What is a Code Signing SSL Certificate?

Thanks to this digital signature, which acts as an assurance of trustworthiness and integrity, end-users feel confident that the software or driver hasn’t been compromised or altered by any third party.

Therefore, the Code Signing SSL Certificate ensures the security for two important elements:

  • Content Integrity — certifies that the developer’s code hasn’t been altered since creation;
  • Content Source Authentication — ensures the developer’s code legitimacy.

By running a signed application or software, users can see the publisher’s name and the details of the Code Signing SSL Certificate (by clicking on the name). Without this certificate, a software is considered as anonymous and untrusted (coming from an “Unknown publisher”), and it’s being exposed to spyware, malware, spyware, viruses, identity theft, or harmful codes.

How do Code Signing SSL Certificates work?

Like any other SSL Certificate, the Code Signing SSL Certificate is built based on the public-private key pair (Public Key Infrastructure).

The private key becomes a part of the software’s code, being used to sign the data and make any program alteration impossible.

The public key confirms the digital signature of the date, and it’s submitted to the Certificate Authority in order to issue the Code Signing SSL Certificate.

Therefore, the peculiarity of a Code Signing SSL Certificate is that it starts with the Code Signing process. This process confirms the identity of the software’s author.

The Code Signing process consists of the following steps:

  1. The Code Signing SSL Certificate is requested by the software developer;
  2. The developer’s identity is certified by the CA by issuing the SSL certificate;
  3. The developer uses a special Code Signing program to add the certificate and the digital signature to the software. This is performed by generating a one-way software hash encrypted with the private key and bundling it with the soft and the certificate;
  4. The software is uploaded online by the developer, making it available to be downloaded;
  5. When the software is downloaded and run by the user, the digital signature is checked by decrypting the hash with the public key of the certificate. As a result, a new hash is created;
  6. This new hash is compared to the hash signed by the Code Signing Certificate;
  7. If the hashes match, the operating system allows the installation of the software to the user’s computer or Mac. Otherwise, the operating system will display a security warning, making the user aware that the software’s origin is unknown, and the software’s content may be compromised, leaving the installation of the software at the user’s own risk.

To avoid the unwanted expiry of a digital certificate, a timestamp is usually added to the software’s code.

Types of Code Signing SSL Certificates

Code Signing SSL Certificates are Business Validation (BV) SSL certificates, which means that they require providing company’s documents to the Certificate Authority (CA). The entire verification and approval process may take up to 3 business days. Once the Code Signing SSL Certificate has been issued by the CA, it serves as a third-party guarantee of your digital goods authenticity.

Code Signing SSL Certificates for Individuals are available too. There are fewer Certificate Authorities which offer them. Code Signing SSL Certificates for Individuals are issued to individual developers who don’t have a registered company or don’t want to associate their software with a company. Individuals have to pass the validation in order to be issued a Code Signing SSL Certificate. They can do that by providing documents that prove their identity.

Who needs a Code Signing SSL Certificate?

Any software developer who plans to distribute code or digital content over the Internet should secure its product with a Code Signing SSL Certificate. Without a certificate, their digital goods risk to be tampered, corrupted, impersonated, modified, and then re-hosted and distributed to masses of people.

Examples of digital goods which require Code Signing SSL Certificates

The Code Signing Certificate is a must-have for signing these types of digital products:

  • enterprise applications;
  • packaged software;
  • utility software;
  • OEM software;
  • device drivers;
  • configuration files;
  • freeware;
  • shareware;
  • middleware;
  • virus updates;
  • or any other software which contains codes and can be downloaded and installed on an operating system.

Pros of Code Signing SSL Certificates

  • Customer Confidence — the certificate assures users that the software is trustworthy so as there are no security warnings displayed when installing the certified software;
  • Authenticity — the certificate allows users to easily identify the software’s author;
  • Software integrity — ensures the security of digital goods by protecting them from being hacked, counterfeit, re-packed and distributed;
  • Seamless browser integration — most browsers don’t allow any action commands coming from a digital good that isn’t signed by a Code Signing SSL Certificate.

The most popular Code Signing SSL Certificates

The most favored Code Signing SSL Certificates are:

1. Thawte Code Signing SSL

2. DigiCert Code Signing SSL

3. Sectigo Code Signing SSL

Final thoughts

A Code Signing SSL Certificate is a must-have for any software developer and software company.

In the world of digital development and distribution, a Code Signing SSL Certificate will always make the difference by helping your customers get instant trust about the source and integrity of your software, hence protecting the image of your company, and your intellectual property.

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