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Why do you need a Code Signing Certificate for your Android App?

Digital infrastructures are becoming responsive for multiple devices and hence phones are becoming increasingly popular.

Research by Statista indicates that the number of smartphone mobile subscriptions has reached 6.4 billion (2022) and is expected to surpass 7.7 billion in 2028.

The convenience of carrying these phones everywhere has compelled web developers to invest in Android/iOS developments. Android app is globally popular amongst users and hence their development team needs to ensure proper security of their apps and data.

Web developers put in a lot of time, effort, and money to develop an application. Long working hours, endless coding of lines, countless edits, etc. all compiled together are essential to create a good Android app. But a good Android app also needs data security and hence a Code Signing Certificate is the best solution for ensuring the same.

What is a Code Signing Certificate?

A code signing certificate is the vertebrae of Android App security. They are digital certificates just like SSL certificates and are issued by Certificate Authorities (CAs).

These certificates are used for digitally signing applications, scripts, codes, executables, etc. They help ensure mobile app and code security and hence are vital for app security.

Web developers are always eager to launch their apps and place them in the App Store. But before placing it there, it is important that they digitally sign their application/code with a code signing certificate to secure it from digital threats.

When an application/code is digitally signed with this certificate, it becomes difficult for hackers to infiltrate, modify, or delete the code.

In a nutshell, code-signing certificates prove to be indicators of authentic apps.

The presence of these certificates on the code will display the publisher’s name to the users, whereas the absence of these certificates will display “unknown publisher” to the users. This alerts the users when they approach an unsecured/compromised code.

How Does a Code Signing Certificate Secure Android Apps?

As stated above, the main function of code-signing certificates is to digitally sign applications, codes, scripts, executables, etc. This function is carried out by using asymmetric cryptographic hashes.

These certificates reveal to the users that the software/application they are downloading is secured, authentic, and not tampered with.

The web developer/publisher needs to approach a reliable CA who will verify the code authenticity and developer’s identity before issuing this certificate. On positive verification, the CA sends this certificate to the developer who will digitally sign his code with the help of the private key. Later this secured code is placed on the App Store for users to download the same.

Users can view the developer’s name too and use the public key for matching hashes. On a positive match, the users know that the code is authentic and secure for download purposes.

If there is a mismatch of the hashes, the users will know that the code is compromised and hence they can refrain from downloading it.

Tip:

Buy a reliable code signing certificate from trusted code signing certificate authorities (SSL certificate providers) and secure your Android Apps. The security strength, as well as the certificate benefits, are similar compared to expensive digital security certificates.

Benefits of a Code Signing Certificate

Code Signing Certificates provide an additional security layer to software executioners and other web publishers who can authenticate their code and identification on the internet.

Prevents Malware

Malware attacks are surging on Android apps since attackers inject malware into the app codes to cause damage to the app and misuse its data.

Code signing certificates prevent the malware from spreading by verifying the developer’s identity. Thus, users are saved from the accidental download of malware, since attackers cannot install malware into the Android apps without detection.

Featuring in the App Store

All the popular App stores like Android, iOS, Google, etc. always consider app security as their topmost priority. Hence its mandate for Android applications/software to install a code signing certificate on their app for entering the store and for better visibility of their app.

In short, if the app is not digitally signed, the app will be barred from being placed in the store.

Helps Maintain Code Integrity

These digital certificates help establish app authenticity and code integrity to its users. Thus, users are relieved since they know which software to download and which to ignore. The digital sign done by the publisher using this certificate is proof that the code is intact and has not been tampered with after being signed.

The app market is a competitive one and hence web developers should use this certificate to eliminate the “unknown publisher” warning alert and establish a trustworthy and secure Android app development for their users.

Helps Enhance App Download Count, App Distributions & Revenues:

When users are convinced about the authenticity of the app, the app downloads and distribution counts are bound to increase. This indirectly enhances the app revenues and better return on investments. Thus, web developers should integrate a code signing certificate in their app to gain full monetary benefit from their efforts and time.

Guarantees a Seamless User Experience

App users always prefer to download secured apps since they become carefree about falling prey to malware attacks or compromised codes. An app with a code signing certificate guarantees a secured app and authentic code to its users.

Additionally, the users are not harassed with warning alerts which can hinder their experience. Hence, developers should digitally sign codes to provide their users with a seamless and hassle-free experience. 

Apart from these benefits, there is one major benefit that can be availed by timestamping the code.

About Timestamping

A recording of the date and time of an event is known as timestamping. Developers should timestamp their code/application/software after digitally signing it with a code-signing certificate.  

Timestamping in code signing is a feature that safeguards the digital signature and keeps it valid even after the expiry of the code signing certificate.

In short, the operating system and the app store accept the software even after the expiry of the certificate if the code is timestamped.

Users too can avail of the security benefits of the app they are downloading if it is timestamped after the expiry date.

Which Code Signing Certificate is Ideal for Your App?

There are multiple brands of code-signing certificates available with digital certificate providers. Before selecting the ideal one for the app, the developer needs to ponder over varied factors like:

  • Range of Code Signing Solutions
  • Price and its Value for Money
  • Provider Reliability & Popularity
  • Timestamping Feature
  • Unlimited Signing Options
  • Customer Support
  • Security Standards

A few popular names include DigiCert Code Signing Certificate, Comodo EV Code Signing Certificate, Sectigo Code Signing Certificate, etc.

Wrapping Up

Thousands of apps are sent by these developers to Google Play daily. It’s difficult to sort out the genuine one from the list and hence developers need to incorporate code signing certificates with their apps. They need to limit access to the private key and keep the security practices in place to counter multiple security challenges successfully.

These certificates provide triple benefits to developers since they help establish owner identity, secure code integrity, and provide a secure environment to its users, thus keeping them happy. As far as users are concerned, they too are happy to download apps from a secure environment.