During online software downloads, customers should be careful of 3rd parties camouflaging as software providers. Resources like code signing, where the software distributor or developer digitally signs the file being sent out, can help ensure that the software comes from the right source. The digital signature proves the code has not been modified or tampered with.

While code signing establishes trust and authenticity, the software is not immune to malicious intent, tampering, and misuse. There should be collaborative responsibility between the development and security teams to accomplish mutual objectives without disruption. Following good industry-standard practices can make code signing as effective as possible. They are as follows:

1.   Use Cryptographic Hardware to Protect Private Keys

This is one of the best practices that help you safeguard private keys with the latest encryption algorithms. However, ensure using a FIPS 140 Level 2-certified hardware product for best results. HSMs or hardware security modules can significantly help here as they protect private keys from getting into the hands of scammers. Enterprise code signing offers a secure and dedicated environment for cryptographic operations and key storage that can further help organizations safeguard their private keys from logical and physical attacks, thus ensuring complete integrity of the code signing procedure.

2.   Ensure Code Security with Code Signing Certificates

Use code signing certificates as and where possible to verify the authenticity and source of code to the end-users and to increase customer confidence in their security. Signing your code properly means imbuing your program or application with trust managed by a reliable public certificate entity. Ensure using an EV Code Signing Certificate for added security.

3.   Rotate Keys Regularly

Several times, using private keys for code signing increases the risk of key compromises, like unauthorized access. Further, if a private key is compromised, all codes signed using that key for a specific date may be invalid and should be updated with an all-new code signing certificate. Rotating or cycling through varied certificates and keys will help mitigate this risk and lower the impact or effort when re-issuing certificates.

4.   Instill Good Habits

Instilling the habit of maintaining and using certificates properly is critical as it further makes all other code signing practices effective. Introducing a culture that clearly understands the significance and use of digital certificates will improve your organization.

5.   Come Up With All-Inclusive Code Signing Procedures and Policies

Ensure your code signing procedures and policies precisely define responsibilities, roles, and workflows. Also, ensure that the employees get proper training while adhering to the policies to maintain a safe and secure code-signing environment.

6.   Minimize Private Key Access

Use the services of an IT expert to have access control measures in place that limit access to base root certificates and private keys. Additionally, allow only a few individuals to access the private keys while ensuring these individuals have a solid reason for access. Create an RBAC or role-based access policy to restrict possible exposure within your company.

7.   Constant Auditing and Monitoring

Employ a solid auditing and monitoring system to investigate and detect suspicious activities during the code-signing procedure. Perform audits and review logs regularly to notice potential security gaps and take proper measures to fill them quickly.

8.   Time-Stamp Your Code

Time-stamping is another effective code-signing practice that helps you understand when the code was written and compare it with the certificates it uses. This way, you can re-verify a code as legitimate if the certificate has expired or is revoked otherwise. This is one of the most significant relationships to understand since current protections may be broken or weakened as cryptographic threats and technology evolve.

9.   Know Release-Signing and Test-Signing Differences

Ensure separating and knowing the difference between release-signing and test-signing certificates or keys. Test signing keys or certificates involves less security, and any private internal test CA can even self-sign the certificates or keys. Such keys or certificates must also chain to a completely different root certificate than the release-signed products. Best practices at this stage include setting up different code signing structures for release and pre-release signing. This can help you set up access controls for the production code and test environment.

10.  Ensure Code Authentication

Code signing does not entirely ensure code safety; it just states who wrote the code. Therefore, fully authenticate the code before public release to stop spreading malicious or incorrect code that may harm consumers and damage their reputations. Also, record all code signing authentication activities for future use in case some kind of incident response or investigation is needed.

11.  Scan for Viruses

Yet again, code signing authenticates a code but does not guarantee its safety or security. Therefore, conduct thorough malware and virus scans on the code before publication to enhance its overall quality and identify and eliminate security risks.

12.  File Logging

Log each code signing activity and other related operations, like signing the code, creating key pairs, changing code signing key pairs or certificates, and creating code signing certificates for future use. With all logs stored in one place, it gets easier for auditors to view procedures that have taken place and make notes of everything that’s occurring within the code signing tool. These logs also help during insider or outsider threats allowing organizations to track different procedures and discover who has signed what. Additionally, the logs also stop malicious developers from signing mid-process.

The Bottom Line

Code signing is critical to ensure software reliability and authenticity. Nevertheless, the prospective results of a compromised code signing procedure may be severe. To safeguard your software environment, implement the robust code signing practices above and mitigate the risks associated with code signing failures.

Categories: Business

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].