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Purpose: Outlining the minimum requirements for Code Signing certificate issuance. (Effective February 1, 2017)


As of February 1, 2017, Certification Authorities (CA) trusted by Microsoft Windows must issue code signing certificates  in accordance with the Minimum Requirements for Code Signing.

The new requirements are designed to make Code Signing (CS) certificates more secure, specifically, higher protection of the private key. As of February 1, 2017 all CS certificates must be issued using a secure method such as a hardware crypto module/HSM FIPS 140-2 level 2 certified:

  • PCI cards
  • Separate units that communicate via various channels (networks, SCSI,etc.)
  • Smart cards
  • USB tokens
  • Basic USB Thumb drives*
*Best practices for Code Signing certificates outline that a hardware crypto module/HSM FIPS 140-2 level 2 certified be used for Code Signing certificates, however, a basic USB thumb drive can be used to store a private key. There are strict regulations surrounding the use of insecure hardware such as a basic USB thumb drive. If you decide to use this type of hardware, you must adhere to these guidelines: (1) the USB thumb drive must be removed from the signing device after the code has been signed and (2) stored thereafter in a secure place such as a lock-box, safe, or a secure cabinet. If these guidelines are not adhered 

Key items from the updated requirements:
  • Private keys must be stored using a secure method such as a hardware crypto module/HSM FIPS 140-2 level 2 certified.
    • An HSM USB Token is included with the purchase of Entrust Code Signing Certificate license.
    • Subscribers can also use any third-party HSM or Cloud Service that meets the FIPS 140-2 level 2 requirements.
  • The new requirements create a security standard that can allow for 135 month time-stamping certificates, so your code signing signature could be valid for more than 10 years.
  • Malware researchers or an application software suppliers may request a Certification Authority  to revoke a subscriber's Code Signing Certificate if proven it has been compromised to sign malicious code.
  • If the private key is not secured using the method listed above the Certification Authority must revoke the certificate; a replacement certificate may be issued but the Certification Authority must ensure that the private key is stored using one of the qualified methods.
The complete document that outlines the entire requirements for issuance of Code Signing certificates can be found here.

Microsoft's article relating to these new requirements can be found here.

Entrust is dedicated to implementing Best Practices in design, implementation and management of digital security, including the issuance of Code Signing certificates. 

You can see our technote about Code Signing Best Practices here for further information.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the Entrust Certificate Services Support department for further assistance: 

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