If you’re a software developer or a publisher who distributes their software or applications on third-party websites, then you already might be knowing how important it is to assure users that the software they are downloading is coming from a genuine person.
Here, Code Signing Certificate plays this exact role of offering an assurance. By using a Code Signing Certificate, a software developer or a publisher conveys a message to their users that it is coming from a trusted source and it has not been altered or tampered in any way or form since its signed.
If you're familiar to SSL/TLS Certificate, then you will know how they provide secure connections for website visitors, it’s the same over here but in little different way. Let’s take a look:
- A Code Signing Certificate offers a unique private key, like offered while purchasing an SSL/TLS Certificate, exclusive for every user. It is used affix a digital signature to a given executable script or software.
- The importance of the private key is that it provides a unique signature for every script/software file the user signs, because the private key is signing a "hash" of that executable file. A Hash is one of the mathematical functions used to provide a unique value in the form of string data that is then signed along with the software.
- Lastly, whenever the users run the executable files, their platform (like Windows or iOS) always checks and displays the signature, which lets users know the origin of software and let them decide.
The Role of a Code Signing Certificate
Code signing has different roles which help users know whether the software they are about to download from the internet is trustworthy or not. The essential work of Code Signing is to authenticate the publisher of the downloadable software or file. For example, the user will trust files or software from Microsoft, which does not show any error or warning sign during download or installation compared to any old XYZ’s software which warns user during download or installation.
In other words, the Code Signing Certificate works like a Wax Seal by putting a digital signature after verifying the identity of the developer or publisher. So, if the software or an application is tampered or altered by anyone, the user will be notified by a warning sign that it’s not safe.
Apart from this, the value of Code Signing can be seen after installation, well into the future. For example, once you download the software and receive any update, you will be guaranteed that the updates are genuine and safe as the updates are also signed using the same key.
Code Signing offers only identity. In the end, it’s user’s sole responsibility whether to trust the integrity of the organization or author and run an executable file or not. There's always a possibility that someone may choose to sign malware or any other malicious executable file to trick the users. What Code Signing Certificates guarantee is that the software was the same when it was signed and distributed.