In a world where cyber threats loom large in forms such as malware, there is an imminent need to validate the authenticity and legitimacy of the software applications and executables downloaded from various locations on the web. The executable and app scripts can be altered by malicious coders to gain access to systems, intercept or corrupt transactional information online, and to cause financial losses, denting brand reputation in the process. To prevent such breaches, safeguard end-user interests and protect a software publisher’s reputation, code signing is a must.

 

Protecting Applications through Code Signing

Code signing is a process of digitally and cryptographically signing code, program or software before being released and published. Code Signing establishes the integrity of the software or applications by ensuring the code has not been tampered with after the publishing authority has signed it. If the software is tampered or modified in any way, the signature is termed invalid. The use of code signing certificates enables users to ascertain whether the app or executable can be trusted or not. By digitally signing software before publishing, developers can assure users that the software they are releasing is from a genuine source and can be trusted. Code signing also improves trust while running updates of the software in use.

A code signing certificate uses public and private cryptographic keys to sign code. A request for certificates by the software publisher moots the generation of a private-public key pair. This pair is used to encrypt the code. The code is signed using the private key and remains in the publisher’s system. The certificate provider receives the public key to approve the signature. The certification authority then verifies the publisher’s information included in the digital certificate.

 

Manual and Automated Code Signing

However, manual code signing can take a lot of time and is error-prone, since it is difficult to verify the relevance of the certificate. It is also tough to drive security audits as developers/release teams may have unlimited rights to sign any file, which is also due to a lack of tracking mechanism to check who has signed the application. Manual signing can also be used by a nasty insider to bundle malware, compromising end-user security. Moreover, private keys stored locally on a file system can be used to sign third party applications which do you do not control.

Automated code signing is an ideal way of overcoming the bottlenecks of manual code signing. Automate code signing uses a role-based approach to allow publishers to define code signing policies and workflows, this will enable them to have complete control over who signs in. The workflows are automated and ensure the policies are implemented to protect private keys. Automated code signing solution can also integrate with your build and release systems to protect private keys by using tamper-resistant hardware security modules.

 

Automated Code Signing - Highlights

Automated code signing can also help in:

  • Consolidated management of certificate keys
  • Ensure centralized code signing
  • Audit records for signing
  • Establish self-signed certificates for test signing
  • Active Directory integration

 

Key features of advanced, automated code signing solutions include:

  • Managed code signing process with controlled software signing approval process and support for multiple build machines  
  • Support a variety of file types and major OS
  • Workflows to allow code signing integration into build and release process
  • Automated malware scanning of files before being signed
  • Role-based access capabilities for user self-service
  • Managed HSM and secure key management

 

Code signing – The Human Factor

Code signing is critical as it allows the application publisher to be verified and ensures application integrity. However, this doesn’t prohibit the distribution of malevolent software. Hackers can gain access to code signing certificates and sign in with a virus to give the application a legal makeover. Hence, securing the signing keys is of paramount importance to avoid such catastrophes.

 

Looking to tamper-proof your applications, secure publisher identity, and gain customer trust?

We lend a helping hand. Schedule a free demo of Aujas Automated Code Signing Platform today!