Why Do Android Developers Need a Code Signing Certificate to Secure Mobile Applications?

Why Do Android Developers Need a Code Signing Certificate to Secure Mobile Applications?

23 August 2021

Eager to launch your innovative software application? A successful launch begins with purchasing a code signing certificate — an innovative tool that allows developers to sign and timestamp their creation digitally. A code signing certificate is a digital certificate that uses cryptography to link the application to its owner. Besides establishing ownership, this certificate also plays an instrumental role in protecting the code’s integrity and secures mobile applications.

So, its use helps developers combat duplication of apps and malicious code injection into the application — the two most dreaded issues encountered in the app development business. You’d be amazed at how many developers lose out on potential revenues and their app’s reputation due to these two concerns. So, signing your executables with a code signing certificate is the easiest way to overcome these issues and get the most out of your apps. Are you still wondering what a code signing certificate is? Let’s find out!

What is a Code Signing Certificate? 

A code signing certificate is a digital certificate issued by a Certificate Authority to individual developers or organizations. Through public-private key infrastructure, it confirms the developer’s identity and his ownership of the application. In the digital landscape, such an identifier is necessary to ensure secure mobile application download.

Since there is no direct communication between the developer and the end-users, imposters tend to list cloned apps with malicious code in them. Thus, a code signing certificate provides an avenue for both the developers and the end-user — to protect their interests through a reliable mechanism and thrive in the digital economy.

Advantages of Code Signing Certificate 

In 2021, there’s no way your app can survive without this digital certificate. Now, you might wonder why you need one if your app is listed on your website and your customers know who owns it. But, even then, you might need one because there is so much more you can do with this digital certificate. Below are some of its core advantages and a quick peep into how that can impact your business.

Protects Code Integrity:

The code signing certificate plays a pivotal role in protecting code integrity through hash function matching and timestamping. As the hash used to sign the code is eventually confirmed, it automatically verifies its integrity. So, the end-user can be sure that cybercriminals have not manipulated the code. Also, the option to attach a time strip (better known as the timestamp) along with the initial signature enables one to confirm the code’s integrity.

Build Credibility:

When users install your application, you don’t want them to see a security warning like the ‘unknown publisher’ alert, which can lower your credibility. However, in a bid to protect users, most operating systems confirm the publisher’s identity by referring to the signature applied on the application before the installation. Therefore, it is necessary to get a code signing certificate from a reputed CA and sign all the applications and updates before publishing them.

Superior User Experience:

Users prioritize security over all else, and that’s precisely what software developers must tap into. So when your customers see a trust seal from a reputed CA and no security warnings, that’s likely to put their minds at ease.

Evidence of your creation:

The timestamping feature lets you prove your ownership of the code, and this can be extremely useful when your proprietary rights are challenged. For example, many reputed app repositories like the PlayStore and AppStore periodically remove cloned apps, both on their own and on the request of genuine app developers. So, when such disputes are to be initiated or resolved, you can always prove your genuineness and authority if your app is signed with a code signing certificate.

Expiry of Code Signing Certificate & Timestamping

Many developers are confused about the impact of an expired code signing certificate on their application’s credibility. First, you must understand that the lifecycle of this digital certificate varies between one and three years. Still, there is little to worry about as long as the certificate is valid while signing and timestamping the code. The systems only look for the timestamp, so what matters is whether the code signing certificate was valid when the signature was applied. So, make it a point to never sign an application with an expired code signing certificate.

Why Android Developers Need Code Signing Certificate

You’d be astonished to know how easy it is for hackers to slip malicious code into applications that don’t use this digital certificate. No wonder hackers are always on the lookout for unencrypted code they can tamper with. However, you can prevent that from happening by using a code signing certificate to encrypt the application’s code. The encryption makes the code illegible to third parties, making it impossible for hackers to clone or tamper with it.

Final Takeaway

As discussed, a code signing certificate serves the three-fold purpose of establishing ownership, protecting code integrity, and making the virtual world safer for users. It is a must-have for all types of app development projects — browser extension, mobile apps, desktop apps, etc., because almost every mainstream operating system now requires it.

However, just having one does not resolve your security issues. To secure mobile applications and other projects created by your firm, you must keep your private key secure by limiting access to it. With a few security measures in place, your app development business can counter numerous security challenges in no time.

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