Mastering Code Signing Certificates: Best Practices And Tips

Tech Qiah

Nowadays, software is a part of everyday life. Everywhere you go, at home, at work, in your car, or pretty much anywhere else. Software running millions of lines of code connects everything. 

Code Signing Certificates

Suppose you are a software developer or publisher. In that case, you are aware that code signing is a recommended practice that the internet aggressively promotes to ensure consumers can authenticate the publisher. However, you already know how vital signing code is. 

Hackers occasionally use private keys to compromise software or code you have already signed. Thus, it is imperative to take specific actions to safeguard private keys. In this article you will find the list of the top five code-signing practices. 

1. Controlling And Managing Your Access To Private Keys

One of the most significant security risks is that a code signing certificate's private key could be stolen, lost, or corrupted. Hackers find it highly tempting since it allows malicious actors to sign any code, anywhere. 

There is a significant market for code-signing certificates for illegal usage, as evidenced by the discovery that code-signing certificates with their hacked private keys are being sold on the dark web for more money than passports or firearms. 

The best way to manage code signing certificates is to control the access to private keys. Setting restrictions on who can access your private keys is the best approach to ensure their security and stop unauthorized use.

Ensuring that only authorized workers have access to private keys is crucial. Similarly, ensure that private keys are only accessible by specific computers.

2. Stamping The Time Of Your Code During Signing

The digital signature contains a time stamp, a piece of data showing the exact moment the software was signed. A code signing certificate's normal validity is three years. When the certificate's validity time ends, the digital signature loses its validity, and security issues arise.

Timestamping was enabled to give clients a way to confirm the validity of the code even after the certificate expires or is revoked. The consumer can determine when the code was signed and whether the certificate was still valid by looking at the time stamp. 

Time stamping reduces the cost of renewing code signing certificates and is an excellent method of building trust regardless of the certificate validity period.


Stamping The Time Of Your Code During Signing

3. Scanning Your Code

Code signing does not guarantee the code is secure, even though it reveals who wrote it and when it was released. 

You may find yourself in difficulty if you unintentionally sign an infected code with your code signing certificate since the downloadable file or the infected software will damage the user's device. 

Your code signing certificate may be revoked, and obtaining a new one may be challenging owing to strict validation criteria. Ensure there are no problems or bugs by running a thorough quality assurance test to stop this from occurring. 

Similarly, a code review will guarantee that the code has been examined carefully. Before signing your code, you can make sure it is virus-free.

4. Revoking Compromised Certificates

Report your private keys to the certificate authority immediately if you discover they have been compromised. It's crucial to ask the certificate authority to cancel the certificate if malware was signed with it or if the keys were lost or stolen. 

To demonstrate that the code signed before the date of certificate revocation has not been affected, you might choose a revocation date that is earlier than the date of breach if you have timestamped the signed code. 

Notify your CA immediately if your signing certificate is hacked or if another problem occurs, such as the loss of the private key.


Revoking Compromised Certificates

5. Code Authentication Before Signing It

Code signing simply identifies the code's author; it does not mark the code as safe. As a result, before the code is officially made available to the public, it must still undergo complete authentication. 

By doing this, you can ensure that you are not unintentionally spreading harmful or inaccurate code that could endanger clients and tarnish your reputation. 

For the benefit of future generations, all code signing and authentication operations ought to be documented in case an inquiry or incident response becomes necessary. 

Establish a distinct procedure for code signing submission and approval to prevent malicious, erratic, or unapproved code from being signed. Before signing any software and executables, ensure they are fully authenticated. 

Create a distinct approval and signing mechanism for code to avoid signing malicious or unauthorized code. Your program or files will be verified to be ready for signing through this process.

Code Authentication Before Signing It


Most people frequently ignore security precautions until a threat has become serious. And in terms of code signature security, this is similar. 

The best method of code security is code signing, which ensures consumers that the code they received is unaltered and has not been tampered with. Use the recommended practices for code signing listed above to boost your organization's security.

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