Most digital devices such as desktops and smartphones come with pre-installed software for easy operation. However, in most cases, you will have to download additional applications or software for smooth functioning. Some applications or websites also require users to enhance, upgrade, or patch their current software to experience its full capabilities.
Once you download the program, you need to perform specific actions that require informed decisions on whether to install, uninstall, run, or cancel the command. These prompts perform actions based on the user’s discretion on installing or running the downloaded code.
So, the big question is how do you choose? How do you know whether you can trust the software? This is where code signing comes in.
What is Code Signing?
Code Signing means its publisher has digitally signed the scripts and executables. This helps confirm the publisher’s authenticity to the user.
Simply put, code signing validates that the program code or software you have downloaded is genuine and isn’t tampered with while in transit after being signed by the publisher. Once a software publisher develops a code, they have to generate a key pair, called private and public keys, and then submit the keys to a trusted certificate authority (CA), requesting a signing certificate.
Once the CA verifies the code and publisher’s identity, they authenticate the digitally signed certificate. Only then does the CA sign the public key, creating a signing certificate.
Why is Code Signing Important?
The primary purpose is to provide the user with sufficient information to make a more informed decision before installing digital codes. This simply means that users should not trust unsigned codes as they lack file integrity and publication origin evidence. If the code is unsigned, the user cannot hold the publisher accountable for any tampering or data loss. This can, however, damage the company’s reputation and negatively impact sales.
Code signing ensures that any executable files, programs, or software updates have digital signatures that allow users to verify their integrity and authenticity before installation. You can consider it more or less like a wax seal that lets users know that the product has not been tampered with. For example, a code signing indicates that the product update originates from Microsoft and not some hacker trying to access your computer when installing Windows update.
There is much more to signing than just authenticating the publisher and integrity of the code. While code signing protects the user, it also has numerous benefits to the publisher.
1. Increased Distribution and Revenue
The use of consumer devices has increased exponentially in the last decade. There are more than 15 billion mobile devices worldwide as of 2021. This trend in the usage of mobile devices makes code signing very important in this digital era.
Users are always at risk of any malware attack with the increased use of mobile devices. To protect consumers, software publishers and mobile network providers insist on code signing issued by a trusted CA before accepting a code they wish to distribute. So, without code signing, the distribution of the digital code would be severely limited.
Code signing offers more visibility as authentic codes are likely to be trusted on numerous platforms, resulting in more distribution and increased potential revenue for the publisher.
2. Reduced Security Warning
Often when you try to install software, you’re come across a loud beep and security warning prompting that the software is not safe to install. As a user, you might be left wondering what could be wrong since you have purchased the original software from the publisher.
This happens as, likely, the software was not code signed. Without code signing, users will get an increased security warning when they attempt to install the code. The computer’s firewall or antivirus software will consider the code a potential threat to the system and prevent its installation. Sometimes, users may have to disable security features to install such codes.
By using it, various platforms automatically accept your code. Of course, a security warning might still appear, but when it does, it will more likely recommend users to trust your code because a trusted CA authenticates it.
3. Safe, Secure Customer Experience
With digitally signed code, users enjoy a smooth experience with minimal security warnings when they use programs. Signing your code provides users with a sense of safety and assurance that the code is from a trustworthy organization.
Even if users are not familiar with your products, they will enjoy peace of mind installing the files with digitally signed certificates from a certified CA.
Hackers continue to leverage advanced technologies to look for vulnerable files and software. However, with code signing, organizations can eliminate the risk of data tampering, safeguarding their reputation and intellectual property.