Why do Android Developers Need a Code Signing Certificate to Secure a Mobile

why do android developers need a code signing certificate to secure a mobile

The popularity of Android and the Need for A Code Signing Certificate

The increase in smartphone usage is why android development is a lucrative career and venture. Ever wondered how many people use smartphones today? According to figures from Statista, the number of smartphone subscriptions has surpassed 6.5 billion. Statista projects this figure to grow to 7.6 billion by 2025.

One operating system that has been dominant in the smartphone development industry is the android operating system. As of August 2022, android was controlling a 70% market share of the mobile operating system market. And because android is loved by billions of global users, ensuring code safety is a critical aspect every developer should consider. 

Malicious actors tend to exploit vulnerable codes and use them for malicious purposes. It implies that android app developers who neglect code security put millions of users in the jaws of cyber threats. Incidents of code manipulations have been documented in previous years. Developers have the responsibility of ensuring their codes are safe from such incidents. One perfect solution to achieving security in Android application development is using a Code Signing Certificate. This article will explore the whole aspect of a Code Signing Certificate. It will explain what a Code Signing Certificate is, how it ensures android app security and why android developers need it.

What is A Code Signing Certificate

A Code Signing Certificate is the backbone of android security. Like all digital certificates, such as SSL certificates, certificate authorities issue the Code Signing Certificate. The certificate employs asymmetric cryptographic hashes by digitally signing mobile applications, codes, and executables, thereby helping users validate the codes’ validity and authenticity. Code Signing Certificate does not ensures about mobile app security but it assures about the code of an application. Once an application is integrated with a Code Signing Certificate, it becomes difficult for attackers to infiltrate it, tamper or alter the information contained therein. 

Users who install android applications with Code Signing Certificates will see the name of the publisher that developed the application. If an attacker succeeds in altering the code, the user will see the message “unknown publisher,” a warning that tells users that they might be dealing with an unsafe code or application. Briefly, a Code Signing Certificate is a digital certificate that helps app users and developers stay safe from cybercriminals. A great developer must integrate the Code Signing Certificate into the android app development project. If resources are a constraint, a developer can opt for a low cost or cheap Code Signing Certificate that offers similar security benefits as other expensive certificates.

How Does a Code Signing Certificate Work to Secure Android Apps

As mentioned above, a Code Signing certificate, like other digital certificates, employs asymmetric cryptographic hashes by digitally signing mobile applications, codes, and executables to protect them from attackers. Once an android developer requests the Code Signing certificate from a certificate authority, the CA will not issue the certificate immediately. Instead, the certificate authority must first do its due diligence to verify the authenticity of the developer and only issue the Code Signing certificate after an extensive validation process.

Upon receiving the certificate from the certificate authority, the developer will sign the code using its private key and distribute the application to the app stores so that people can download and use them. Users who download the application will be able to see the name of the developer. They will then use the public key to match the hash marks. If the two elements are identical, the user knows that the code is genuine and can proceed to download the application. However, if any tampering is detected on the code, the developer will have to sign the code afresh. 

Why Android Applications Need Code Signing Certificate

At this point, you know what a Code Signing Certificate is and how it works. This section explains why android developers must integrate the Code Signing Certificate in their android application development projects.

  • The Code Signing Certificate Prevents Malware Infiltration

Malware infiltration is one of the major problems faced by android developers. Malware attacks targeting android users have been surging more recently. According to Statista, different forms of malware targeted android applications, with Trojans accounting for 93.93 percent and ransomware accounting for 2.47 percent of all malware infiltrations. 

With the surge in malware attacks targeting android users, android app developers have a role to play in ensuring that their apps are safe from such threats. It is important to understand that attackers execute these attacks by inserting attack codes in legitimate android apps. The attack code will then be introduced in the market to execute all sorts of damages to unsuspecting app users. The consequences of malware infiltrations can be highly devastating on the side of both the app user, developer, and owner. They can lead to data losses and other financial damages.

A Code Signing Certificate is a perfect solution to dealing with malware infiltrations in android apps. The Code Signing Certificate prevents the app from unauthorized access, leaving no room for malware attackers. To protect an android application from malware, developers should consider using a Code Signing Certificate.

  • It Is a Mandatory Element for An Application to Feature in App Stores

App store services like Google take the issue of app security seriously. They do not entertain insecure android apps in their app stores. Android applications that do not have a valid Code Signing Certificate will be barred from featuring in Google’s app store. What is the point of spending enormous resources and time to build an application that cannot feature in app stores?

To award applications with visibility in app stores, android developers should buy and install a Code Signing Certificate on their android applications. In other words, the Code Signing Certificate provides ground and space in app stores, helping developers market their mobile applications.

  • Code Signing Certificates Establishes Code Integrity

One of the most vital goals of a Code Signing Certificate is to show proof that an android application is genuine, authentic, and valid. From this, end-users can decide whether to download and use an android application. In addition, the Code Signing Certificate is proof that the app has not been tampered with since the code was signed. Because developers want to prove their authenticity in the competitive android app market, they can use the Code Signing Certificate. Android applications that lack the Code Signing Certificate will be marked with the “unknown publisher” warning. 

The certificate also proves that the app originates from a trustworthy source. In essence, before a developer is issued a Code Signing Certificate, the certificate authority must first validate its authenticity. Trust is a significant asset and one of the vital determinants of success. Developers can leverage it by using a Code Signing Certificate.

  • Helps to Increase App Downloads, App Distributions, and Revenues

The certificate helps to convince users that the app they are about to download is genuine and from a genuine source. Therefore, app users are more inclined to download an application with a Code Signing Certificate than without the certificate. As a result, the app enjoys perfect penetration and increased app downloads distributions, and revenues. Concisely, although indirectly, a Code Signing Certificate helps boost revenues and investment returns. 

  • Enhances A Seamless User Experience with Mobile Apps

App users tend to be comfortable using applications, which carry security features. They do not have to worry about falling victim to malware attacks or other app-related security threats. The Code Signing Certificate assures them that their app is safe and secure and that all interactions they make with the applications are safe. Additionally, with the Code Signing Certificate, app users are not bothered by endless error messages that might hinder a seamless user experience. Every developer must strive to enhance user experience and integrating a Code Signing Certificate on the app is one easy way.

  • Timestamping Benefits

Code Signing Certificates come with a time stamping feature. This element ensures that the certificate remains valid even after the Code Signing Certificate’s expiration date is elapsed. With the certificate, app owners and users do not have to worry about the security implications of the expiry date. Users can still enjoy all app security benefits even when the expiry date has elapsed.

Which Code Signing Certificate Is Good for Your App?

There are several Code Signing Certificates available on the market. However, before you make your pick, it is essential to consider several factors. For instance, you should look for the availability of the time-stamping feature, ubiquity considerations, and unlimited signing with one certificate, among many other considerations. Here are some of the Code Signing Certificates you can consider for your android app security needs:

  • Comodo Code Signing Certificate
  • Sectigo Code Signing Certificate
  • Comodo EV Code Signing Certificate
  • DigiCert Code Signing Certificate

Conclusion

The surge in smartphone usage has provided a lucrative spot for android developers to develop all kinds of applications for different purposes. However, developers are not the only ones who have seen the opportunities provided by the increase in smartphone and android popularity. Cyber attackers are also in the mix. They target unsuspecting apps to steal users’ sensitive data and commit unmentionable crimes. Which is the Code Signing Certificate comes in. This article has explained what a Code Signing Certificate and its importance is.

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Hiral Atha is the Founder and CEO of MoveoApps. She started coding even before she entered high school and today, she helps clients develop impactful mobile apps for their business. With over a decade of experience in mobile, she leads a team of young and experienced developers. When not leading an ambitious app development project, you’ll find her playing board games with her 6 years old son and piquing his curiosity in computer programming.

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