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How Code Signing Certificates Work

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How Code Signing Certificates Work

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· Security Zone ·
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Code signing, as the name implies, is a way for programmers and developers to literally sign their scripts and executables before publishing them. Signing your software/code essentially serves two functions:

  1. It provides cryptographic protection against the modification of the code/software
  2. It identifies the author of the code/software

So, How Does Code Signing Work?

Code signing actually works very similarly to SSL in many ways — that’s why many CAs sell both.

We’ll start by looking at the process of obtaining, installing, and using one:

  1. You purchase a certificate. Depending on whether you’re an organization or an individual, you choose the right code signing option for you. There are even EV Code Signing Certificates available.
  2. The CA verifies your identity. The process differs depending on whether you’re a company or an individual, but suffice it to say the CA wants to make sure you are who you say you are and that you’re operating in good faith before they authenticate you.
  3. You install your Code Signing Certificate. This one is pretty straightforward — you install it on whatever platform you’re using.
  4. You start signing your executables and scripts. Every platform handles the actual signing process a bit differently. But, one thing is the same — this is where you add your digital signature. As we just discussed, the digital signature really isn’t a signature at all — it’s just a string of data that can be hashed to display your identity and whether or not your code has been altered.Code Signing Certificate
  5. You distribute your signed software. This is the last step. After you have signed your software/code, you can begin distributing it. Anyone who proceeds to download and run it will be presented with your signature, which, when hashed, will display your identity as a programmer and whether or not the code has been tampered with since you published it.

It’s really as simple as that. Your digital signature contains information on your identity and what exactly it is you signed.

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