Ever since the software industry witnessed the introduction of code signing, software users have learned to rely on digital certificates and GPG to verify the integrity and identity of software. Little questions were raised concerning the security of the certificates and GPG themselves. The “severe” scrutiny of the software publisher by the certificate authority and the uniqueness of GPG key, shared through the publisher’s website, were enough to trust software.

Only recently the software community started to question whether users could trust such signatures. Several tests proved that they couldn’t.

The limitations of current code signing practice

First, a singing digital certificate does not guarantee the authenticity and integrity of the software. Hackers often steal certificates and sell authentic certificates on the darkweb for few hundreds of dollars. Not-so-attentive certificate authorities issue digital certificates to a look-alike company that managed to pass the approval process. Finally, malicious users sign software with certificates issued to themselves or other fake identities: who’s actually checking the name on the certificate before installing a software application, anyway. Notable posts such as that of Bruce Schneier’s (https://www.schneier.com/academic/paperfiles/paper-pki-ft.txt) provide all the details about why digital certificates cannot guarantee the integrity and authenticity of software.

GPG provides a free alternative to digital certificates. GPG is broadly adopted by the open source community. Despite that, GPG shows limitations when applied to code signing (GPG was actually born to encrypt and sign emails). Most of the times GPG keys, which are autogenerated, are not added to the Web of Trust. As a result, they do not provide identity verification of the owner. Instead, they are used merely as hashing key, which is mutable and therefore can be faked. For this reason, founders of open source projects have started to hand out their GPG keys in person during events (certainly not a scalable model).

CodeNotary adds trust to software

CodeNotary.io was built to solve exactly these problems. Once the code is signed with CodeNotary, it’s SHA-256 hash is committed by the software publisher on a public ledger. As a result, the identity of the publisher and the integrity of the software are immutably stored and anyone can verify them.

Code Signing
Screenshot of CodeNotary Dashboard

In its pursuit to make software trusted, CodeNotary could not rely on a centralized ledger for the software signatures. The goal of CodeNotary was not to replace an intermediary, such as the certificate authority, with another central entity. Such a solution would have suffered similar flaws as current models, including becoming a target for hackers who wanted to steal or modify signatures. CodeNotary’s goal was to completely disintermediate the code signing process and give software publishers the control over their own signatures. The publishers could then sign software assets with infinite granularity (code, applications, patches, libraries, containers, etc.) on immutable and unhackable storage. The Zero-Trust Consortium (ZTC) offered that immutable, unhackable, fast and always-on ledger capability thanks to its Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

The Zero-Trust Consortium Distributed Ledger Technology

The ZTC is an independent, community-led membership group whose purpose is to support the usage of a fast distributed ledger, with no transaction cost, and built for the software industry, by the software industry. vChain, the company behind CodeNotary, worked with other notable founding members, such as Acronis and Chainstack, to create the first DLT for the software industry, and are now successfully recruiting new software companies who want to develop enterprise-ready applications using the blockchain technology without the limitation of the public ones.

blockchain block explorer ledger distributed
Screenshot of the ZTC Block Explorer

With the public release of CodeNotary, vChain proved that the ZTC distributed ledger was up to its mission of making the DLT ready for enterprise-class software.

 

Start now your free trial on CodeNotary here and see how easy and fast you can sign your code on an immutable distributed ledger.