How Does The Code Signing Process Works


The last thing you want as a software developer is a third party tampering with your software by inserting malware into it. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in this time of technological growth. Luckily, you can keep your software safe with code signing.

Code signing is a relatively new practice that software developers and users appreciate because of its effectiveness and convenience. It offers unbeatable protection and is easy to implement. 

A code signature has countless uses. For example, software engineers, Microsoft developers, and programmers use it to confirm your Windows 10 update is from Microsoft and not from a cybercriminal trying to compromise your computer’s safety and health. The article below has answers to all your code signing-related queries.

What Exactly Is Code Signing? 

In the most basic terms, code signing uses a digital signature to sign software programs and scripts to confirm the publisher or creator’s identity and ensure that the code has not been changed. 

A digital signature is a mathematical method utilized in verifying the authenticity and integrity of a message, software, or digital document. It is impossible to copy a digital sign, which makes code signing a powerful way to ensure that the code you’re running comes from a trusted source and hasn’t been interfered with. 

Code Signing Structure  

Four main components make code signing possible and contribute to its success. They are:

  • Code Signing System- it’s where code is signed. 
  • Certificate Authorities (CAs)- a software developer should have a certificate from Certificate Authorities for code signing to happen. The developer must buy the certificate and present documents for confirmation to receive a certificate. 
  • Time Stamp Authority- it may be optional, but it’s a good idea to have it. Experts use it to specify the time and date that a code is signed. This ensures that the signature is still accurate even when the certificate lapses. 
  • Verifiers- users will want to confirm your executable file or software package’s authenticity once it’s time-stamped and marked. You should verify the signature yourself before printing the document. 

How Does Code Signing Work? 

Code signing works by using a private key to sign your software or code. The private key is unique to the software developer. It is used for creating a digital signature, which is then appended to the code. 

The digital signature is like your fingerprint; it’s unique to you and can be used to verify that the code hasn’t been altered since you signed it. Once the code has been signed, anyone can check its integrity by using the public key, which is freely available.  

The digital signature is generated using the following algorithms:

  • RSA- it’s the most common algorithm used for code signing. 
  • DSA– it’s an alternative to RSA but not as commonly used. 
  • ECDSA- it’s newer than RSA and DSA and becoming more popular because it offers better security.

The code signing process usually goes like this:

  1. A software developer writes code and completes the development process. They secure their file using a cryptographic hash.
  2. They then create a certificate request and submit it to a CA. The CA will verify the request and issue a certificate if everything is in order.
  1. The set encrypts the software using a one-way hash code using the developer’s private key.
  2. They receive a digitally executable certificate.

Users can verify the developer’s identity as they download the software. They compare the two hash codes when they download any software. The process is as follows:

  1. Decrypting the hash with the private key in the certificate.
  2. Creating a new hashcode for the software they’ve downloaded.
  1. Comparing the two code signing certificates to confirm the download’s authenticity.

The failure of the two hash to match indicates that a third party interfered with the file.

Types Of Code Signing Certificates 

Code signing certificates are provided by Certificate Authorities (CAs). The CA will assess the identity of the requestor before issuing a certificate. There are two types of code signing certificates:

  • Extended Validation (EV) Code Signing Certificates- they take effort to obtain and are only given to organizations. They’re intended for higher-volume software printers. Their private encryption key is preserved in a physical hardware key. 
  • Organization Validated Code Signing Certificates – also referred to as standard code signing certificates, they’re easier to get. You have to verify your identity with the certification authority and undergo a simple confirmation procedure. 

An EV code has more features than a standard one. For instance, you can use it to sign Microsoft Windows drivers. SmartScreen, Microsoft’s built-in website, and a download checking structure. Smartscreen will immediately trust your software when you sign it with an EV certificate.

Meanwhile, standard certificates allow operating structures to contrast your software’s hash when signing to its hash at runtime. Plus, it identifies you, the developer, as the individual behind the executable document or software. 

Where Else is Code Signing Used Apart From Microsoft?

Developers can also use code signing in:

  • .jar files 
  • Software patches and window applications 
  • .air or .airi files 
  • Apple software 
  • Any other executable 


Code signing is crucial in keeping your files safe and original as a developer and protecting your reputation. That’s why you should start using it if you aren’t using it already. Countless individuals and companies have used it, and they’ve benefited from it. Be among them today! 


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