If you are an individual or freelance developer, you certainly know the value of a code signing certificate. But the real deal is whether you know how to get a code signing certificate or not. It is necessary to digitally sign applications, drivers, executables, and software programs for end-users to verify that a third party hasn’t tampered with the code they receive.
Code Signing Certificates include your signature, company name, and if required, a timestamp. Because, sometimes, a website owner or developer’s certificate will not suffice for their project. Here are the five best ways to get a code signing certificate for your projects.
Using Your Own Company’s CA
Use your own company’s Certificate Authority to generate the public key/private key pair as well as the code signing certificate. You can generate a code signing certificate within your company’s Certificate Authority. Choosing this option is vital when you don’t want to interchangeably use SSL and code signing certificates.
This will create a self-signed certificate that is valid for one year and includes the name of your organization and the IP addresses associated with it. As this is a less common option, you may need to consult your IT department or Certificate Authority provider on how to do this.
Buy A Code Signing Certificate from A Trusted CA
The second option is to buy a code signing certificate from one of the many trusted Certificate Authorities. While several companies offer code signing solution, not all CAs accept code signing requests for individuals or small businesses.
Most commercial CA’s provide two different kinds of digital signatures: an Authenticode signature and an OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy) signature. An Authenticode signature provides end-users with more security because it cannot be exported off their machine; however, if you choose this authentication method, your binaries will be compatible only with Windows OS.
Use an Authenticode ID
If you’re not comfortable generating a code signing certificate or buying one, you can use an Authenticode ID. This Microsoft-issued digital certificate allows developers to sign their code with a trusted signature.
An Authenticode ID can be used for both personal and commercial development projects and does not require the purchase of a separate code signing certificate. The main drawback is that your signature will only be valid on Windows machines.
Apply For an Individual Code Signing Certificate
The fourth option is to apply for an individual code signing certificate through a Certificate Authority. This typically takes 5-15 business days, and the cost will vary depending on which CA you choose, but it can be as low as $200 or less per year.
You’ll need to provide some information about your organization and how long it has been in operation before submitting this type of request. Once approved by the Certificate Authority, they will send your new Authenticode digital signature back to you via email with instructions on installing and using them properly. You must then follow their setup procedures exactly so that no issues arise when trying to verify the integrity of your binaries later down the road.
Use OpenPGP Signature
If you’re looking for a more versatile and portable digital signature, you can use an OpenPGP signature. This type of authentication is not as widely used as Authenticode, but it’s still a valid option that provides good security. It also doesn’t require purchasing a separate code signing certificate as the Authenticode ID does.
An OpenPGP signature uses public-key cryptography to create a digital signature that can be verified by anyone who has your public key. Because this kind of authentication is less common, fewer software programs support it natively. However, if you need to use an application that doesn’t support OpenPGP signatures, some third-party tools can help.
Bonus Tip: Get a Developer ID from Apple
How about getting a Developer ID from Apple. This method works for macOS and iOS developers who sign their binaries using Apple’s Xcode IDE. To do this, you need an Apple developer account which costs $99 per year plus 5% of any revenue that your software generates on the App Store. The process requires generating a unique cryptographic key pair and the code signing certificate. You’ll then use Xcode to produce a signature file containing all of the necessary information about your app, including its hash value and other details needed by Gatekeeper when verifying your application before installation.
An important thing to note here is that restrictions are imposed on apps submitted through TestFlight or available through the App Store for iOS. They cannot be distributed to anyone other than a select group of people, and they must follow strict guidelines set forth by Apple.
The Final Step
At this point, you’re ready to go. You can use your code signing certificate and enjoy it for a long time. After all, code signing certificates have a four-year validity period. And there’s no need to be concerned even if the code you signed while your valid certificate is revoked, any signatures on the code will remain valid. Once you have a perfect code signing solution, you are all good to go.
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