The number of mobile application downloads is increasing day after day. The reason behind the increasing mobile app usages is because mobile apps are convenient and easy to use. Other reasons for the popularity of mobile applications include; the ease to install the applications, the excellent user experience they bring forth, the streamlined interface, and the ability to download the apps easily through offline and online app stores. Therefore, let us brace ourselves to see even more mobile app usages shortly.
Although the apps add significant functionality to mobile phones and bring many benefits to the users, several security concerns threaten the users and the integrity of networks. These security threats make mobile apps vulnerable to online fraud. Most storefronts and developers now recognize the gravity of such threats and take proper app security measures. For instance, we have seen how the popular mobile software platforms such as Windows Mobile 7 and application stores such as Windows Marketplace for Mobile have implemented the digital signatures technology that plays a significant role in verifying and identifying how reliable application developers are. This is where the code signing certificate comes in. Code signing certificates play a very critical role in application security. This article has explained the meaning of a code signing certificate, how the certificate works, and the role of the code signing certificate in application security. To start us off, let us first understand what a code signing certificate is.
What Is Code Signing Certificate?
So, what is a code signing certificate? The code signing certificate is a special kind of digital signing technique that plays a significant role in securing codes and software scripts. Before installing a mobile application or software, there are two critical things that you ought to consider. First, you need to establish the legitimacy of the software or application. Legitimacy means that the application is from a trusted developer or publisher. Secondly, you also need to establish the integrity of the software or application. Ascertaining the integrity of the application will help you know whether or not the software of the application has been tampered with since it was published. These two factors are crucial to the security of a mobile application or software. The code signing certificate addresses both the integrity and legitimacy issues.
A code signing certificate allows the app developers and programmers to include their signature in the scripts and codes before taking them to the public. There are two primary benefits of signing a code.
- It prevents unauthorized attempts of data altercations in the application or software.
- It helps a user to identify an application or software.
The code signing certificate usually has the name of the company and a timestamp included in the signature. These details will help a user identify the origin and legitimacy of software or app.
Another important thing that a code signing certificate does is keep your app away from unnecessary and irritating security warnings. Users usually get frustrated by these warnings when they are installing an application. The warnings can also make the users doubt the safety of the application. This can lead to some trust issues, and, in worst-case scenarios, users might refrain from installing your application. This can be highly beneficial, especially when you release new app updates and software versions and sign them using the code signing certificate you used earlier to sign your code. Users will automatically trust the update as you have signed it.
For instance, let’s say Microsoft just developed software. The name Microsoft would appear when you are installing the software. This way, a user is sure that the software has been developed by none other than Microsoft. Check the image below to see how the code signing certificate will look like.
How Does Code Signing Certificate Work?
A code signing certificate works similarly as the SSL certificate. Just like the SSL certificate, it uses public-key cryptography or asymmetric encryption technology. This technology involves two cryptographic keys, the public key and the private key, that work in a pair. Although the public keys and the private keys are different from one another, they are mathematically related.
The two keys will be generated whenever you submit a request for a code signing certificate. As the name implies, the private key must always remain a secret. The private key is stored on the applicant’s device and is not submitted to the certificate authority. On the other hand, the public key is usually submitted to the certificate authority before the code signing certificate is issued.
As already mentioned, the way these keys work in code signing certificates is similar to how they work in SSL certificates. The private key is the one that will be used to apply the digital signature to the application. The public key is used to verify the organization’s identity that signed the code signing certificate.
Role of Code Signing Certificates in Mobile Application Security
Code signing certificates have gained a lot of traction because of their power in keeping mobile applications secure. Operating systems such as android and apple are continuously emphasizing the essence of the code signing certificates. As an application developer, you do not have to worry about the integrity of your final product. To ensure that your mobile application reaches the end-user without any security compromises, breaches or modification, you must start thinking about using a code signing certificate. The following are some of the reasons why you need a code signing certificate for your mobile application.
1: Code Signing Certificate is a Proof of Legitimacy
The primary purpose of a code signing certificate is to let your customers know that your application is from a genuine source. The digital certificate will shrink-wrap your mobile application to prevent it from being edited by malicious intruders. The certificate instils a certain level of trust and gives them confidence when using your app. Nowadays, with the increasing cybersecurity threats, it is very easy to find mobile doppelganger applications masquerading as legitimate apps, but with an ill-intent of stealing data and causing havoc. Users are paranoid about this, and they need assurance that your mobile app is secure. To provide this assurance and show them that your application is genuine and not fake, you will need to use a code signing certificate.
2: The Code Signing Certificate Helps to Prevent Malware Distribution
A few years ago, very few people knew about an operating system known as android. Today, a majority of the world’s popularity relies on android to carry out their day-to-day activities. The android market, called the Google play, has grown and is outshining the Apple app store, especially in free applications. However, the increasing popularity of the Android operating system and Google play has also attracted unwanted attention. Several malware attacks are now targeting android applications.
One of the popular tactics hackers use on android devices is inserting an attack code into a legitimate mobile application. The repackaged and malicious code will then be reintroduced into the market. Users will not be able to differentiate the real code from the fake code. As a result, such a coordinated malware attack can be devastating to the users. They will most likely lose their valuable information. The malware attack can also exploit users’ devices by sending premium messages at the users’ cost. A code signing certificate can be of extreme importance in preventing such cases. It will validate the code sources and ensure that the codes are not modified in any way.
3: Safe and Secure Experience for the End-Users
Creating a unique mobile application and distributing it safely with high integrity can help to ensure a seamless user experience. Code signing certificates prove to the users that the application is safe and makes the user use the application without any worries.
Mobile applications are gaining a lot of popularity. They offer a seamless user experience, and they improve mobile device functionalities. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices also comes security threats. Therefore, app developers should ensure that their applications are safe to use. There are several measures that you can use to ensure that your mobile app is secure. One tool that has proved to be handy in mobile application security is the code signing certificate. All mobile applications need the code signing certificate for the sake of their safety. This article has explained how the certificate works and its essence in mobile application security.