Code Signing certificates are a must for code publishers. With so many digital programs available to download, protecting users from malware and viruses is a prerequisite for any successful IT company or independent developer. Code Signing certs prove the identity of software’s creators and ensure that no one can alter the original code without being noticed. 

How do Code Signing Certificates work?

Code Signing is the process that confirms the identity of the software’s author and guarantees its authenticity. It issues the SSL Certificate that digitally signs its scripts and executables. To achieve this, it uses a unique cryptographic hash to bind the software to the identity of its publisher.

Like all SSL Certificates, a Code Signing Certificate works based on the Public Key Infrastructure – the public-private key pair. The public key confirms the signature of the data by issuing the Code Signing Certificate. On the other hand, the private key signs the data and becomes a part of the software code, making any alteration impossible. Any tampering with the code leads to an invalid signature.

Benefits of Code Signing Certificates

A Code Signing Certificate will increase your customer’s trust and your software’s credibility. Here is why:

  • Your client will not see any security warnings when installing your software;
  • The expiry notifications will prevent you from accidental certificate expiration;
  • It assures your customers that your software is verified, comes from a trusted source, and is safe to download;
  • It protects your clients from installing hacked, counterfeit or re-packed versions of your software and digital products.

Getting the Code Signing certificate

Developers looking for free Code Signing certificates are in for a disappointment. They don’t exist. If you ever see someone offering a free Code Signing Certificate, it’s a blatant scam. Moreover, most Code Signing certificates are Business Validation (BV) and Extended Validation (EV) certificates that require the Certificate Authority’s authentication.

Some Code Signing Certificates are cheap but harder to validate, while others are pricey but extremely easy to verify. Upon closer look at each category, you will understand why the smart money is on more expensive Code Signing Certificates.

After the validation, you receive the code signing certificate and the encryption key pair. Before you can encrypt and sign your software, you must hash the software’s code. Hashing is the procedure of converting code into an arbitrary fixed value. The hashing output, called a digest, is then encrypted using the private key. 

Next, you must combine the digest with the code signing certificate and the hash function to create a signature block that goes into the software.

Cheap Code Signing Certificates

To many users, Sectigo is almost synonymous with cheap code signing certificates. The company offers an affordable Code Signing SSL Certificate for Individuals and Businesses, compatible with popular platforms such as Android, Mac, Adobe Air, and many more. All good so far, but things get exponentially trickier as you try to sign up for the Sectigo Code Signing Certificate.

To generate the private key, you must use a specific browser. Sectigo recommends Internet Explorer 8+ on Windows and Firefox on Mac. But what if you aren’t aware of these recommendations? 

For example, if you use Chrome to apply for the certificate, you will need to replace it as it won’t be valid. Moreover, submitting the relevant documents to Sectigo is not enough. You also need to get attested by a legal authority. For more details, please check our FAQ section.

More expensive but easy to validate Code Signing Certificates

Compared to Sectigo, the Code Singing Certificates from DigiCert may seem expensive, but their value and features far outweigh the price tag. DigiCert is the global leader in providing web security solutions. Leading companies from various industries trust DigiCert when it comes to online security. DigiCert’s powerful brand image will bring you strong customer trust and recognition.

The verification process is simple. All you have to do is fill in your personal details or company’s information (make sure they’re up to date). If the Certificate Authority can verify them, you will get your Code Signing certificate in just a couple of days.

With SSL Dragon, you can save a considerable amount of money on each Code Signing Certificate when you buy a multi-year subscription. The longer the validity period, the lower the price, and less certificate maintenance is required. Don’t miss out on our discounts, offers, and promotions!

Best Code Signing Practices

Code Signing certificates are not a magical tool that will solve all your security and trust issues. However, without them, you won’t even have the chance to sell your digital products. Users are well aware of the dangers that come with unverified software. That’s why it’s imperative to follow the latest code signing practices if you want your software to look professional and reliable. Below we’ve listed a few tips on what to avoid and how to enhance your Code Singing certificate.

Buy only from trusted Certificate Authorities

Any software publisher can issue a self-signed certificate, but no one will trust it. Unless you need it for testing purposes, you should always get a code signing cert from a trusted third-party entity authorized to issue them to the public. Among the leading Certificate Authorities that offer a wide range of code signing products for every need are DigiCert and Sectigo. If you pick one of them, consider half the job done. 

Control the access to private keys

Keeping private keys safe is imperative. But sometimes, in a large IT department, too many users may have access to them. You should enforce strict guidelines on who has access to the organization’s private keys and how are they deployed. To further protect your private keys, set a role-based access (RBAC) policy within your company.

Time-stamp the code

It’s always a good practice to time-stamp your code and not rely only on the certificate’s date of issuance. When the certificate expires or is revoked, a time-stamped code is still considered authentic. The timestamp is part of the code signing process and can be fully trusted as it follows the Universal Time Coordinated sources.

Validate and scan your code

A code signing certificate verifies and confirms the publisher’s identity but doesn’t validate the code itself. Before launching your software, check your code for potential errors and vulnerabilities. A rigorous validation plan will ensure that the commercial version is bug-free and secure. The code signing certificate is the final layer of security that ties everything together and allows customers to use the products with peace of mind.

Don’t delay revocation when certs are compromised

Certificate revocation is a standard practice that keeps the code safe. CAs revoke certificates every time there’s a breach. When a certificate is revoked it becomes invalid before its expiration date. If your code signing certificate is compromised, you should contact the CA and ask it to be revoked. To make this process smooth and efficient, ensure your organization has certificate revocation guidelines and a designated individual authorized to initiate the revocation process.

Final Thoughts

In an online world where anyone can upload altered scripts or codes, Code Signing Certificates prevent the fraudulent use of the software. They ensure that all content is safe and belongs to a legally registered company.

After putting so much hard work into software development, the last thing you want to do is to see some random hacker messing with your code. The best way to prevent this is to get a Code Signing Certificate.