Code Signing Certificate For Mobile App Security: Why, How & What?

Every mobile application is made of several lines of code, components, and services that cater to functionality for user requests. Mobile developers spend massive amounts of time and effort to build such applications, and a minor vulnerability can expose it to hackers. Such exploitation leads to data breaches which can harm your business. However, a “code signing certificate” is a solution that can help protect your mobile application from such attacks. Moreover, investing in such a solution makes more sense when the cost for data breaches can go up to $137,000.

However, what level of solution you need for your business will depend on the specific security requirements. For example, you can choose an Extended Validation (EV) code signing certificate that offers extensive publisher or mobile developers validation through secure storage of private keys.

Here, we will discuss why a code signing certificate is essential for your mobile application security and how to use it. But, first, let’s start with why it is so crucial?

Code Signing Certificate For Mobile App Security

Why Do You Need a Code Signing Certificate?

Modern applications can be vulnerable to cyber attacks due to several different reasons. For example, an error in the source code can be why hackers exploit and access sensitive data. Other reasons can be unauthenticated data access and even controlling the data flow over the network.

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The average cost of a single data breach across all industries worldwide was more than $4 million in 2020. So, you can imagine the impact of a single data breach incident on your business, leading to massive costs. Here, a code signing certificate can help you avoid data breaches through encryptions.

Understanding a Code Signing Certificate

A code signing certificate is a process of placing a digital signature on your mobile application, which is executable only through the authentication of users. The best part about this security measure is that your user will have complete data privacy and the entire installation of the app stays hidden from hackers.

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Users want to interact with a trustworthy brand. According to a report, about 27% of users trust brands because they do a good job protecting their personal information. So, a code signing certificate will enable users to authenticate the publisher of the digital signature.

This allows your users to validate whether the app is legitimate or not and ensures that there are no phishing attacks that can lead to a lack of trust. So let’s understand how it works to protect your mobile apps?

How does a Code Signing Certificate work?

There are two parts to the entire code signing process. The first is on the publisher’s end, while the other is at the user’s end.

  • A developer of a publisher uses a private key to add a digital signature to the application code.
  • A user will have a public key to decode the signature to install the software or application and use it.
  • The software will search the root certificate through the verified ID to validate the digital signature.
  • The system will apply a hash used for download to sign the code and match it with the root certificate for validation.
  • If there is a match, the download continues or else interrupted.

This is a standard code signing process that you can leverage to secure your mobile applications. It can be a little costly than your standard SSL certificate, but several vendors offer code signing certificates at affordable prices. These certificates ensure that your apps are safe for download and installation, infusing confidence in the brand for users.

However, If you want to have far more advanced validation for mobile apps, you can choose an EV Code Signing certificate. But, first, let’s understand the difference between a standard certificate and an EV certificate.

How is it different?

In the non EV code signing process, the private keys used for the application’s digital signature are stored in the local data centers of backups of developers. What this does is create a vulnerability. There can be a data breach if the local backup is lost or there is insufficient security at the local data center.

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EV code signing certificates ensure better security through extended validations and storage of private keys in external storage far more securely than local backups. Apart from vetting at the publisher level, it is also done under the strict guidelines of the CA/Browser forum.

The private key is stored in an external hard drive token which is only accessible through authentication. Thus, it leverages a token-based authentication process reducing the possibility of data breaches.

Another essential feature that makes an EV code signing certificate more attractive for mobile app developers is the level of trust it builds for users. Such a security measure is trusted by Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and other such platforms. In addition, Microsoft SmartScreen filter support makes it one of the most secure digital signatures for your application security.

Standard vs. EV Code Signing Certificate

If you are thinking about leveraging EV code signing certificates, here is a differentiation that you need to consider,

EV code signing processThe standard code signing process
It can only be issued after vetting under the strict CA/Bower Forum guidelines, which adds an extra layer of validationStandard vetting of the publisher before issuing the certificate.
Private keys are stored in external storage only accessible through physical tokensPrivate keys are stored in the local backups or data centers within the developer’s network.
Instant trust with support for Microsoft SmartScreen filter and even trusted by other browsers or platforms.No support for SmartScreen filter

Conclusion

As the mobile application market grows, demand for secure apps will increase. Due to massive data breaches and cyber-attacks, mobile app developers need to look towards innovative easy to proctor applications. This is where code signing certificates can play a pivotal role by ensuring pre-vetted apps and complete data privacy for the users.

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