5 Essential Steps For Securing And Managing Code Signing Certificates

The development of various applications has made modern life more accessible for all of us. However, there’s a concern. How can you ensure the application you’re using is safe to download? There must be a way of ascertaining that the software is safe to download.

The answer can be found in hashing. This is where a code signing certificate can be of immense help. It can help users understand whether or not software has been tampered with. Read on as we share essential steps for securing and managing code-signing certificates.

What Is a Code Signing Certificate?

Before we look at the various ways to manage code signing certificates, let’s look at what they are. This is a digital certificate containing data that identifies an entity. It binds the ID of an institution to a unique public key mathematically tied to a private key pair.

To ensure security, developers sign code with their private keys. The end users use the developers’ public keys to verify the developers’ ID.

Steps for Securing and Managing Code Signing Certificates

Having a firm understanding of how to secure and manage your code signing certificate effectively is crucial. Here are easy yet effective ways of ensuring your certificates are always safe.

1. Access to Your Private Keys

Right of the bat, safety starts with how you handle your private keys. As a developer, you must only grant authorized personnel access to your private keys. A significant security threat is having your private keys compromised or losing a code signing certificate’s private key.

Should a hacker steal your private keys, they can sign any code with the compromised private key. Some even sell your keys online for huge profits. The recommended way to ensure your private keys are safe and protect them from nefarious actors is by controlling access to them.

Access should only be given to specific individuals. You may also use physical security solutions to limit access to the keys. Consider having only specific computers accessing private keys.

2. Enforce Policies and Best Practices

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of the code signing certificate management and security process. By growing complacent and not following pre-set policies and best practices, you quickly open yourself to attacks. 

If a hacker breaches your developer network, they don’t necessarily have to steal your private keys. By simply gaining access to a developer workstation or server with access to code-signing infrastructure, cybercriminals can easily install malware to be signed and later distributed without being detected. 

As such, make it a habit of ensuring you follow your SOPs and strictly enforce them. For instance, ensure only the right developer can access the right code with the correct key at the stipulated time. 

Also, consider separating roles between individuals who can submit code for signing and those who can approve incoming requests. This minimizes the probability of abusing code-signing certificates.

By enforcing code-signing policies and access control, you can guarantee that, even if hackers breach your network, they can’t compromise your code-signing infrastructure. 

3. Scan for Viruses Before Signing Your Code

As obvious as it sounds, this needs to be mentioned. Contrary to what you may think, code-signing isn’t designed to confirm the quality or safety of your executables, software, or any other file you sign. 

Indeed, it’s meant to confirm a publisher’s name and whether the code has been compromised since it was signed. Moreover, if a code-signing certificate is used to sign a jeopardized code and ends up on a user’s device, you’re in for a lot of hurt. 

For starters, you can have your code signing certificate revoked. You may also find getting another one challenging because of the validation requirements. As such, try your best to observe all code-signing best practices before you sign your software, including:

  • Take care of your code each time you integrate it with other sources
  • Regularly scan for viruses before releasing any code
  • Observe thorough quality assurance to avoid bugs or issues
  • Conduct full code review to ensure all lines have been checked

4. Timestamp Your Signed Code

Limit the threat of software expiring unexpectedly once the code signing certificate expires through time stamping. Remember that code signing certificates are valid for only 1-3 years. When a code-signing certificate expires, please note that the validity of the signed software also expires—unless the software was timestamped when it was signed.

Why? The system will recognize the timestamp, and the software will remain valid, provided it’s still in production. Similarly, by time stamping your code, you minimize the impact of a certificate revocation. The revocation will only affect software released after the date it was compromised.

5. Keep Current on All Cryptographic Standards

Cryptographic standards are constantly evolving to match current cyber threats. As such, you must remain on top of current industry cryptographic standards. This will help you secure and manage code-signing certificates. 

As technology leaps forward, new threats emerge. Keeping abreast of the latest cryptographic standards keeps you ahead of any threats. By leveraging industry-approved curves, key sizes, and algorithms, you can reinforce the security of code-signing certificates, limiting unauthorized access and misuse of your keys.

To efficiently manage code-signing certificates while remaining current with the cryptographic standards, you may consider the following: 

  • Educate your users and developers on the importance of cryptographic standards
  • Constantly review and revise company policies on cryptographic standards
  • Regularly audit the code signing process to ensure compliance with company policies


By implementing these code-signing management practices, you can ensure your software’s trust, integrity, and security. So, if you’re looking for practical solutions, try a few of these suggestions yourself.

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