How to Automate Code Signing using EV Code Signing Certificate

Motivation

Your software installer (e.g. an EXE or MSI file) is warned by Microsoft Defender. You want to remove the warning so that your users can trust your software.

Solution

You need to sign your software installer using an EV code signing certificate.

Terminologies

SSL certificate is a cryptographic certificate (technically named X.509) issued by a Certificate Authority as a file for encrypting and decrypting data between a client and server.
SSL certificate is usually valid for one domain in 1 year.

Code singing certificate is a cryptographic certificate (technically named X.509) issued by a Certificate Authority as a file for placing a digital signature on a file, program, or software.
Code signing certificate is usually valid for signing file, program or software from 1 year to 3 years.
Code signing certificate does not relate to domain.

EV code signing certificate is a code singing certificate (technically named X.509) that is issued on USB or HSM or Cloud Signing Service (not a file) by a Certificate Authority for placing a digital signature on a file, program, or software to bypass MS Defender warning.
EV code signing certificate is usually valid for signing file, program or software from 1 year to 3 years.
EV code signing certificate does not relate to domain.
When signing file, program or software using an EV code signing beside presence of USB or HSM or Cloud Signing Service an additional one-time password (OTP) is usually required for security.

EV Code Signing Certificate, USB, HSM, and Cloud Code Signing Service

The core part of a certificate is a secret string called private key.
All the certificates have this same core part. The difference is just where this string will be stored.

– This secret string can be stored in a machine/server (standard certificate) and can be exported and imported to other machines/servers, e.g. via PFX files with private keys.

– This secret string can be stored in a USB (this is a requirement for EV certificate). In this case, it can be imported to the USB but then could NOT be exported from the USB and imported to other locations.

– This secret string can be stored in a HSM (hardware security module, usually a physical card with cryptoprocessor chip or a certified virtual machine, USB can be considered a HSM too) (this is a requirement for EV certificate). In this case, it can be imported to the HSM but then could NOT be exported from the HSM and imported to other locations.

– This secret string can be stored in a Cloud Code Signing Service (this is actually a specific certified HSM virtual machine) (this is a requirement for EV certificate). In this case, it can be imported to the Cloud Code Signing Service but then could NOT be exported from the Cloud Code Signing Service and imported to other locations.

If we have 3 physical servers and we use the USB storage approach for EV Code Signing certificate then we need 3 USB sticks (duplicates) that contain the same certificate.

If we use HSM or Cloud Code Signing Service then we just need one HSM or one Cloud Code Signing Service account.

Typical steps to sign code using EV code signing certificate

– Purchase an EV code signing certificate.

– Retrieve the USB containing private key and temporary token password.

– Install software to connect to the USB, e.g. SafeNet Authentication Client, and change the temporary token password.

– Find and copy the SignTool.exe utility from Visual Studio Tools to a location.

– Enable Single Logon feature of SafeNet Authentication Client on Client Settings > Advanced so that we can pass the EV certificate password to SignTool.

– On SafeNet Authentication Client, right click the EV certificate and export the public certificate (.CER file).

– On SafeNet Authentication Client, click the EV certificate and retrieve the key container name of the EV certificate.

– Sign the software installer using the command below.

SignTool sign /f myCert.cer /csp "eToken Base Cryptographic Provider" /k "[{{TokenPasswordHere}}]=KeyContainerNameHere" myFile.msi /tr http://timestamp.digicert.com /td sha256 /fd sha256

– Verify the signing using the command below.

SignTool verify /pa myFile.msi

 

 

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