Top 6 Code Signing Practices You Should Follow

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Code signing is a process of authenticating your software codes, applications, scripts, or programs. The technology uses digital certificates and critical public infrastructure for signing the code.  

These certificates are issued by a trusted third-party Certificate authority, who verify the code-signing source identity and attach their public key to it. Users match this public key with your code’s private key, which authenticates the software.  

Code Signing

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Code signing assures your end-users that the code publisher’s identity is validated, and the code does not get tampered with or altered.   

It is essential to develop a secure signing infrastructure to prevent private keys and certificates breach. Here are the top six practices you should follow to ensure a smooth and effective code-signing process and secure your private keys.  

  1. Limit Access to Private Keys 

Limiting access to only authorized personnel is one of the best code signing practices, regardless of where the key is stored. Also, try to minimize the number of persons who can access the systems with private keys. You can use directory systems to restrict user access.  

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Physical security measures like cameras and biometric access are equally necessary for keeping your code sign secure, especially if your private key is stored on the hardware. This allows you to track the hardware and restrict any employee or contractor looking to gain unwanted access to sensitive data.  

Code Signing

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  1. Avoid Overusing One Key for Signing   

Most organizations implement modern cryptographic techniques for code signing, which are extremely difficult to encrypt for computers. But it shouldn’t encourage you to use a specific key for all the other codes. The reason behind this is if there are security flaws in one code and it needs to be revoked, your other certificates and codes, signed using the same key, will become invalid. 

The best way is to use different keys for different codes and projects, which will minimize the risk and promote  

  1. Ensure Time Stamping Your Code 

A timestamp is a small piece of information preloaded with your signature at the time of signing files using a code signing certificate. Timestamp Authority issues it to prove the authenticity and integrity of your executables. Timestamping is issued by a trustworthy third-party Certificate Authority; it assures the clients that the certificate was valid when the code got signed.  

Another advantage of the time-stamping process is that it allows clients to verify the code even when the certificate is revoked or expired. Failure to configure your software with timestamp will display all your certificates as invalid after your code expires. 

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  1. Implement Cryptographic Hardware Security Modules (HSMs)   

HSMs are devices that protect your private keys, stored on-premises or on the Cloud, against attacks. These highly trusted and specialized physical devices perform all primary cryptographic operations, such as encryption, decryption, authentication, and key management and exchange. The most crucial objective of HSMs is to hide and protect cryptographic materials. 

Code Signing

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HSMs have a sturdy operating system and restricted network access, which is protected by a firewall. These security modules are tamper-proof and restrict unwanted users from exporting private keys, which is why they are the preferred options for storing cryptographic keys.  

Besides, you must ensure all the cryptogenic devices used are FIPS 140 level 2 certified.  

  1. Differentiate Between Test-Signing and Release-Signing   

Test signing certificates get self-signed or signed by a trusted internal certificate authority within the corporate network. In addition, users utilize it for signing pre-release builds of software and verify within the test environment. 

On the other hand, release signing certificates are used for signing publicly released codes that’ll be delivered to the end-users across the globe. Due to this reason, release signing certificates require more stringent security controls than test-signing ones. 

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Always ensure to set up a separate code signing infrastructure for both tests and release signing certificates. This will enable you to differentiate between pre-release and production codes. 

  1. Scan Code for Virus Before Signing 

Code signing only authenticates the publisher’s identity and assures that the software has not undergone tampering. However, it does not validate the quality of the code.  

Code Signing

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Malware and virus can severely affect your code at any stage and infect user’s systems. So, it’s necessary to scan for malicious vulnerabilities before signing it thoroughly. Furthermore, running virus and malware scans improve the security and quality of the released code.  

You should also double or triple-check your code for security gaps since it prevents the release of potentially insecure codes, which can infect your client’s systems.  

Conclusion 

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Code signing is beneficial for every organization as it validates data integrity and validity, safeguards the company’s reputation, and increases users’ trust in their software programs. By incorporating these practices in your code signing process, you can mitigate the risks of data breaches and other security threats. Before implementing such methods, ensure that you get a code signing certificate, depending on your requirement and budget. 

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