Code signing is a crucial security practice in the DevOps process that helps ensure the integrity and authenticity of code as it moves through different stages of development, testing, and deployment. It helps establish trust between different stages of the DevOps pipeline and with end-users and customers.
Code signing typically occurs during the build, release and deployment stages of DevOps (the Continuous Delivery phase in CI/CD). When a development team packages software or code into a deployable artifact, such as a container image, installer, or application package, they digitally sign the artifact with a code signing certificate. This signature serves as a tamper-evident seal, assuring end users that the artifact’s integrity is maintained. Any unauthorized modification to the signed code will break the signature, alerting users to potentially harmful code.
Once the code-signed artifact is ready, it is deployed to the target environment, such as a production server or a cloud platform. Code signing allows the receiving system to verify the authenticity and integrity of the artifact, preventing the execution of malicious or tampered code. It ensures that only trusted and authorized code is deployed, promoting a more secure and reliable software delivery process. Additionally, code signing fits seamlessly into DevOps automation, enabling the rapid and consistent deployment of signed code across various environments.
Although code signing is typically carried out during the build, release, and deployment stages, it is now considered essential even during the initial stages of the DevOps lifecycle. Threat actors are no longer interested only in the software code but also in the various third-party tools that developers use to write, build, and test code.
Enforcing code signing in the code, build, and test stages helps secure all artifacts used in the pipeline, such as source code, dependencies, libraries, and tools. It gives developers the confidence that only trusted and unaltered artifacts are being used, reducing the risk of potential tampering. Organizations can also rest assured that the code is secure through all the stages of the DevOps pipeline.
Code signing helps strengthen software supply chain security by providing a robust mechanism for authentication, integrity assurance, and trust throughout the software development and distribution lifecycle. It helps users verify the legitimacy of software, confirm its origin, and detect any unauthorized modifications or malware before downloading and installing it.
Code signing makes it possible to secure software updates, validate the software supply chain, and protect against zero-day vulnerabilities. It also facilitates compliance and auditing requirements. By integrating code signing into DevOps practices, organizations can automate security checks and enhance developer trust, ultimately insulating the entire software supply chain from threats and vulnerabilities, fostering a safer digital landscape for themselves and the end-users.