Code alteration or code modification is a malicious attempt as it can hamper the safety and security of the data and the software. Currently, many ways of code tampering are used by hackers like code injection, modification of the program’s memory, modifying the compiled binary code of the file, and reverse engineering of a software application. That is why code-signing certificates have become a need today.
Now whether you opt to invest significantly in the potential losses or choose cheap code signing certificate is entirely your decision. Obviously, the latter option is undoubtedly the better choice. So, in this article, we will delve into detailed insights on the code signing certificate and how it works. Keep reading!
What is a code signing certificate?
A code signing certificate is like an assurance that the software is not tampered with and not interfered with by the hackers. You might be thinking about the reason behind confirming the authenticity of the software before downloading and installing it. The answer is simple, it is because the software that you want to install can be downloaded from multiple sites, but you have to check whether it is reliable or not. And when it comes to checking the reliability before installing software, a code signing certificate is a good choice.
Code signing certificate is used by coders and web developers for various purposes. This includes Windows drivers, scripts, software code signing, and functional programs. Not only the authenticity of the software is guaranteed, but the sign of the verified publisher on the code signing certificate shows the legitimacy of the code. Signing a code with your Microsoft code signing certificate means you are declaring that the code has not been modified since its original signing.
How do code signing certificates work?
It is easy to get a code signing certificate. The Credible Certificate Authority (CA) confirms your identity by conducting an identity verification process. It is done after they receive requests from software developers. As your request gets accepted by them, a pair of keys is generated. One key is considered a private key which stays with you, and the other key is considered a public key which is submitted to the certificate authority for making your certificate. Both the keys are linked mathematically.
The codes are encrypted as soon as they are signed by the private key. The hackers then find it impossible to modify the code. The name of the publisher builds up trust among the users who want to download or install the software. The certificates contain hash functions and digital signatures. This not only provides authenticity to the identity of the developer but also ensures the trustworthiness of the codes.
The hash value also confirms the authenticity of the software. At the time of the signing process, the hash value is confirmed by the system. And then the same hash value is compared with the one mentioned on the code and the certificate. If there is no difference in the hash value, then it means that the software is untampered. The public key is also verified with the hash value by the system.
Importance of code signing certificates
The Microsoft SmartScreen will show a warning message for software that is not code-signed or that does not show the name of the publisher. This warning sign will display ‘Unknown Publisher’ on the screen which can decrease the trust of the users for downloading the software. With the decreased trust in its authenticity, the software will have a decreased number of downloads.
One more attack on the credibility and authenticity of your software can be mitigated by the hackers who can insert malicious codes into your software if it is not code signed.
What are Windows Drivers and how they are related to Code Signing Certificates?
Windows Drivers are like guards to your device who provide permission to the operating systems to interact with your device. These essential software components (windows drivers) need to be secured. It is because they are connected to the device directly. If anything happens to the drivers then it can harm your device.
When talking about Microsoft, it wants to secure its drivers before they are deployed. For this reason, the drivers must be signed with code-signing certificates by the software developers. That is why, these certificates are also known as ‘Windows Driver Signing Certificates’.
The user gets an alert if the driver files that are signed, get modified after it is deployed. This alert states that the file can’t be trusted because the source of the driver is unknown.
EV Code Signing Certificate, an important component for Windows
An EV (Extended Validation) Code Signing Certificate is one of the two types of code signing certificates. The other one is the standard OV Code Signing Certificate. In comparison with the standard code signing certificate, the EV code signing certificate is more advanced. It goes through a strict validation process before it is issued.
Microsoft has made it compulsory for Windows 10 drivers to use EV code signing certificates. This is because the EV code signing certificate is transmitted on a USB token. This token uses a two-step login process. In this, it will verify your identity even before the key is handed over.
If you sign the applications using EV code signing certificates, then some software like Microsoft’s SmartScreen could be lenient with those applications. This reduces the warning signs when users try to run or download the software. It also builds trust among the users since it goes through a strict validation process.
Just like SSL certificates, code signing certificates also have an expiry date. For this reason, software developers use timestamping. By timestamping a code, even after the validity of their digital signature, it does not become invalid. A code signing certificate is beneficial only when both, the developer as well as the users are alert. Also, the private keys of the certificate can become prone to theft by attackers if they are not secured properly. You can also purchase cheap code-signing certificates from the certificate providers. They offer different brands and types of code signing certificates and that too at cost-effective rates.