How to secure your app with a code signing certificate
There is an increasing need to secure mobile applications. Making a case for mobile app security is not always child’s play. Most organizations are in a rush to create insecure apps and beat the competition. As a result, they do not take security issues with the seriousness it deserves. In the end, such organizations fall victim to revenue loss, data loss, and reputational damages. Perhaps this explains why we have been witnessing an increase in mobile application threats. According to a 2020 McAfee Mobile Threat Report, malicious mobile applications were the culprits behind over half of mobile threats in 2019.
Mobile app development is a process that should be taken with utmost care. Behind every successful mobile application, there goes a lot of concerted efforts from all the team players. It requires long hours of hard work, incessant coding lines, multiple edits, and several cups of coffee. With all these, you cannot afford to leave your mobile application vulnerable to security threats. Therefore, it would help if you strived to protect its integrity and security. This is where the code signing certificate enters the scene. A code signing certificate assures your app users that their application is genuine, thus protecting users from being defrauded. This article will explain what a code signing certificate is, how to sign your app using a code signing certificate, and why you need to sign your app.
Understanding a Code Signing Certificate
A code signing certificate is a digital signature technology that allows legitimate software publishers to authenticate their identity by signing executable scripts, codes, and content. A code signing certificate contains a 32-bit and a 64-bit. It is crucial because it assures software publishers and users that the code has not been corrupted since publication.
Once the software is signed using a code signing certificate, it will show its users that it is genuine software, verified by a certificate authority and that it has not been corrupted since it was published.
How Does A Code Signing Certificate Work?
Code signing certificates work through an encryption technique referred to as cryptographic key technology. It is the same technology that works in SSL certificate encryption. A cryptographic key pair (private key and public key) will be used in encrypting the code. The cryptographic key pair is generated when the software publisher or author requests the certificate from a Certificate Authority.
The private key is primarily tasked with signing the code, whereas the public key is used in signature authorization. In the case of SSL certificates, the public key will be used to encrypt data, while the private key will be used to decrypt the same data.
The code publisher is the sole custodian of the private keys, and this is to ensure that the software remains intact and that no cybercriminals can tamper with the private key. The certificate authority will verify the identity of the applicant. When the vetting procedure is completed, the code signing certificate will be deemed legitimate, and the certificate will be issued.
Summary for Code Signing Procedure
The following are the steps you must follow to sign your software using a code signing certificate;
• The first step is to apply for the code signing certificate from a trusted certificate authority
• The CA will evaluate your identity
• The next step you must follow is to generate a one-way hash and use your private key to encrypt the hash.
• Lastly, bundle the certificate and the hash, and you are done.
Reasons Why You Should Deploy A Code Signing Certificate
The role of a code-signing certificate in-app security is a match made in heaven. The following are the reasons why you must consider having a code signing certificate for your app.
1. A Code Signing Certificate Will Get Your App Featured on Google Play Store
You must know that Google does not feature apps on their Play store unless a valid Code signing certificate has signed the apps. Therefore, you must strive to feature your app on the app store by digitally signing it. If budget is a concern, one does not have to spend a lot looking for expensive certificates because even a cost-effective cheap code signing certificate will work as well as its more expensive counterparts. Furthermore, it vouches for the code’s integrity and stands testimony to the fact that the code comes from a trusted developer.
2. It Protects Code Integrity and Reputation
Digital signatures are necessary because they come with proof of content integrity. Your code can, therefore, not be distributed without your consent. You are probably wondering how a code signing certificate can be used to prove integrity. It is simple; if the hash applied during code signing is the same as the one available during application download, then your code has not been tampered with. However, any variance will mean that your code was interfered with, and it should not be trusted.
Code signing certificates might also come with an optional timestamp which is essential because it helps extend the lifespan of your digital signature. It means that, even after the expiration of your code signing certificate, your digital signature will remain valid. The reason is the validity of your code signing certificate and the timestamp on your digital signature can be varied.
3. It Helps To Prevent Malware Proliferation
One of the most lethal weapons that a hacker can have is open-source software. Hackers have always had an easy time infiltrating such software with malware. The best remedy is to avoid software displaying unknown publishers and protect yourself and your application from cyber attackers.
This is not to say that signing your software with a digital signature will make the software a hundred percent immune to attackers. In the past, we have seen cases in which malware was implanted in signed software. For instance, CCleaner fell victim to malware proliferation despite it being signed.
Hackers usually rely on stealing private keys to infuse malware into a code. This is why it is crucial to keep your code signing certificate in a secure place and protect all your files using strong and unique passwords.
4. Increased Revenues
Any successful business owner will tell you that one of the vital success secrets is keeping your customers happy. If your clients are happy and trust your performance, they will likely download your app and invite more people to download it. This trend will have a positive impact on your revenues because you need customers to increase your revenues.
Code signing certificates are one of the most vital tools that are used to protect developers and users. From a developer’s standpoint, the code signing certificate not only protects your code but also comes with other benefits that have been captured in this article. The article has also explained what a code signing certificate is and how it works.