Mobile app security is a hot topic of discussion among the majority of developers. Just as smartphones’ popularity and ubiquity have increased, so have increased the threats of cyberattacks on smartphone apps. One of the most common ways of compromising mobile apps is by injecting them with malware. If you want to protect your app from it, you need a code signing certificate. Without it, your app will be very prone to malware injections, and there’s a good chance that you may end up hurting your business and putting the data of your users at risk.
But what exactly are these code signing certificates? And how do they protect the apps? If these are the questions on your mind, don’t worry. We’ll explore what these certificates are, how they work, and why are they so important for mobile app developers. Let’s get started with a brief introduction first.
Understanding a code signing certificate
The function of code signing certificates for apps is similar to that of SSL certificates for websites. A code signing certificate helps you sign your apps’ code before publishing so people can check if they’re installing your official software or someone else’s cloned version of your software developed for harming them. It also helps them ensure that the app’s code was not modified after you created it. Because if someone tries to modify a code after it has been signed, the app’s signature becomes invalid, thus alerting the installer that something has been changed in the app by someone who is not authorized to make that change. That way, the people installing your app remain protected against the activities of cybercriminals trying to steal their data or infect their devices through legitimate apps developed by you.
Decoding its importance for mobile developers
A code signing certificate is crucial for the security of apps developed by all developers, but there are other reasons behind its importance. Here are the primary reasons explaining why Android developers need a code signing certificate for their apps:
- As expected above, it helps protect your code from malicious injections of code (popularly known as malware) from external sources. Your code, once signed by you, remains intact. If someone alters it, the person installing it is always warned before installation, and malware scanning programs also check it more rigorously than the other apps.
- Secondly, even after your app has been downloaded from the Play Store, before installing its Android operating system also validates the certificate and lets the user know who developed the app. So even an average smartphone user can check if the app he/she is installing has been developed by your business or not. That way, even if someone somehow manages to push a cloned version of your app on the Play Store (maybe an employee), your customers can still be alarmed that they’re installing the wrong app as the installer of Android will show someone else’s name as the developer of the app.
- Third, it’s mandated by Google too. If you’re submitting an app without a proper code signature, it won’t be accepted and listed in the Play Store. That makes code signing certificates not just important but also mandatory.
- Fourth, it helps in easier management of privileges. Certificates are easy to issue and revoke, so if you’re a big organization and you want to prevent someone in your organization’s coding team from accessing or modifying your code, then you can revoke their certificate.
All these factors make code signing certificates more and more important for developers of all sizes. Whether you’re an individual developer or a corporation, you must have code signing certificates to sign your apps’ code.
How Code Signing Certificates Help Android Developers to Protect Their Android Apps?
A code signing certificate protects both your app as well as its users from the threat of malware. Working with the internal security features and checkpoints of operating systems (i.e. Windows, Android) creates a system that makes the installation of malware-infected apps significantly tricky, if not impossible.
Here is a brief overview of that system:
- First of all, when you upload your apps to the Google Play store, your app’s code signature is validated to ensure that the code of the app has not been altered after malware injection. If a certificate is found invalid, it is not accepted by Google and not listed in the Play Store. That way, no one can make people install a malware-injected variant of your app, which translates into significantly fewer chances of an attack on anyone’s smartphone through your app.
- Secondly, even after your app has been downloaded from the Play Store, before installing it Android operating system also validates the certificate and lets the user know who developed the app. So even an average smartphone user can check if the app he/she is installing has been developed by your business or not. That way, even if someone somehow manages to push a cloned version of your app on the Play Store (maybe an employee), your customers can still be alarmed that they’re installing the wrong app as the installer of Android will show someone else’s name as developer of the app.
That’s how a code signing certificate works to protectyour mobile app before and after getting listed on the Play Store.
By now, it should be clear to you that code signing certificates are one of the most critical cybersecurity tools that should be available to every developer. You can also buy Cheap Code Signing Certificates from any SSL vendors (GlobalSign, DigiCert, ClickSSL). But if you still have any questions about them, feel free to share them in the comments section below, and we’ll try to answer them at the earliest. Keep coding and keep securing!