How Code Signing Certificate Works: A Simple Guide

PUBLISH DATE: 03 Apr 2018

How Code Signing Certificate Works

Malware. Spyware. Malicious code.

Unfortunately, these are terms that all of us are familiar with these days.

As the digital age marches on, cyber attacks just seem to keep on coming at a dizzying pace. In fact, hackers attack every 39 seconds, and cyber crimes are expected to cost businesses roughly $2 trillion by next year.

You're probably wondering how in the world you can trust even a simple system update, let alone a new program.

Happily, there's a process in place for that, and it's called a Code Sign Certificate.

It's designed to keep you and your device safe from potentially harmful or compromised software, and it's something that you truly can't live without.

If you're curious about how a code signing certificate works, we've compiled a handy breakdown of what it is, how it works, and where to go to learn more.

Code Sign Certificate: What is It?

In a nutshell, Code Sign Certificate is a small file of verifiable data which contain specific identifying credentials.

Those credentials use a certificate-based digital signature to sign programs, code and software.

It's how developers, web programmers, or the average user can be assured that the code or program they're about to implement or install is legitimate and hasn't been tampered with.

These certificates were created as a means to foster trust in the software, and to validate that it hasn't been altered or corrupted.

This is especially helpful when it comes to trusting updates as well. If an update is signed with the same key as the source application, then you know it can be trusted since it could have only come from one place - the developer.

How a Code Signing Certificate Works

You could think of a certificate as akin to your own driver's license in that it identifies the user to anyone requesting proof of identity.

However, unlike your driver's license, certificates can be issued to computers and other devices, software packages, etc.

In order to provide that proof of identification or authenticity, Code Signing Certificate uses something called public-key infrastructure, or PKI.

Essentially, this is a two-part system consisting of a public key and a private key.

The private key is used to sign the data and is never sent to the certificate provider. The public key is used to confirm that signature and is submitted to the provider with the certificate request.

Keys are actually just a very long alpha-numeric string. They're related mathematically, but because they are neither identical (or even similar), both keys have to be used at the respective points in order to encrypt or decrypt information.

Advantages of Code Signing

Code signing is supported on all major operating systems (Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Linux, etc) as well as all web browsers.

The source of your software is authenticated and verified before downloading, and the contents can't be maliciously modified.

Code signing has advanced into the realm of mobile apps as well, and when we stop to consider just how much information is passed back and forth by way of our handheld devices, it's pretty clear that code signing is more important now than ever before.

 We're here to help! Check out our support articles today for more information on how a code signing certificate works.

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