Digital code signing in Visual Basic .NET

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14.3.2 Digital code signing
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Digital code signing, code signing for short, is the process of applying a cryptographic signature to a text file. Signatures appear at the end of the file and look something like this:
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<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-<!-SIG # Begin signature block --> MIIXXAYJKoZIhvcNAQcCoIIXTTCCF0kCAQExCzAJBgUrDgMCGgUAMGkGCisGAQQB gjcCAQSgWzBZMDQGCisGAQQBgjcCAR4wJgIDAQAABBAfzDtgWUsITrck0sYpfvNR AgEAAgEAAgEAAgEAAgEAMCEwCQYFKw4DAhoFAAQUJ7qroHx47PI1dIt4lBg6Y5Jo UVigghIxMIIEYDCCA0ygAwIBAgIKLqsR3FD/XJ3LwDAJBgUrDgMCHQUAMHAxKzAp YjcCn4FqI4n2XGOPsFq7OddgjFWEGjP1O5igggyiX4uzLLehpcur2iC2vzAZhSAU DSq8UvRB4F4w45IoaYfBcOLzp6vOgEJydg4wggR6MIIDYqADAgECAgphBieBAAAA ZngnZui2t++Fuc3uqv0SpAtZIikvz0DZVgQbdrVtZG1KVNvd8d6/n4PHgN9/TAI3 an/xvmG4PNGSdjy8Dcbb5otiSjgByprAttPPf2EKUQrFPzREgZabAatwMKJbeRS4 kd6Qy+RwkCn1UWIeaChbs0LJhix0jm38/pLCCOo1nL79E1sxJumCe6GtqjdWOIBn KKe66D/GX7eGrfCVg2Vzgp4gG7fHADFEh3OcIvoILWc= --> SIG # End signature block --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> --> -->
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The signature contains two important pieces of information: First, it lists the identity of the company or organization that signed the script. Second, it includes an encrypted copy of the script, which PowerShell can decrypt. Understanding how this works requires a bit of background information, which will also help you make some important decisions about security in your environment. In order to create a digital signature, you need to have a code-signing certificate. Also referred to as Class 3 certificates, these are available from commercial CAs like GoDaddy, VeriSign, Thawte, CyberTrust, and others. You might also obtain one from your company s internal Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), if you have one. Class 3 certificates are normally issued only to organizations and companies, not to individuals, although your company may issue them internally to specific users. Before issuing a certificate, the CA is responsible for verifying the identity of the recipient the certificate is essentially a kind of digital identification card, listing the holder s name and other details. So before issuing a certificate to XYZ Corporation, a CA needs to verify that an authorized representative of XYZ Corporation is making the request. This verification process is the single most important step in the entire security framework, and you should only trust a CA that you know does a good job of verifying the identities of the companies to which it issues certificates. If you re not familiar with a CA s verification procedures, you should not trust that CA. Trust is configured in Windows Internet Options control panel (and can also be configured by Group Policy). In that control panel, select the Content tab, and then click
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Security alert!
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Figure 14.3 Configuring your computer s Trusted Root Certification
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Publishers. In the resulting dialog box, select the Trusted Root Certification Authorities tab. As shown in figure 14.3, you ll see a list of the CAs that your computer trusts. When you trust a CA, you also trust all certificates issued by it. If someone uses a certificate to sign a malicious script, you can use the signature itself to track down the author that s why signed scripts are considered more trusted than unsigned scripts. But if you place your trust in a CA that does a bad job of verifying identities, a malicious script author might be able to obtain a fraudulent certificate, and you wouldn t be able to use their signature to track them down. That s why choosing which CAs to trust is such a big responsibility. Once you have obtained a Class 3 certificate (specifically, you need one packaged as an Authenticode certificate CAs usually offer different varieties for different operating systems and programming languages), you install it on your computer. Once installed, you can then use PowerShell s Set-AuthenticodeSignature cmdlet to apply a digital signature to a script. Run help about_signing in the shell to learn more about how to do that. Many commercial script development environments (PrimalScript, PowerShell Plus, PowerGUI, and others) can also apply signatures, and can even do so automatically when you save a script, making the signing process more transparent for you. Signatures not only provide information about the script author s identity; they also ensure that the script hasn t been modified since the author signed it. It works like this:
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The script author holds a digital certificate, which consists of two cryptographic keys: a public key and a private key.
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