How to Bypass the SmartScreen When Installing a Signed Application on Windows 8?

Bypass SmartScreen for Signed Application

With the increasing usage of multiple software and Windows OS in every industry, Microsoft has strengthened security by introducing Defender SmartScreen. It’s an advanced security mechanism that stops users from running malicious applications and other executable files.

However, sometimes it even finds signed applications from unauthorized developers/publishers. Due to it, the reputation and ranking of publishers fall across the digital platform. While analyzing the issue, multiple factors get identified, along with approaches to streamlining bypassing SmartScreen for Signed Application.

And you will find all the information further. So, let’s start.

What is Windows Defender SmartScreen?

The latest Windows updates have a new mechanism known as Defender SmartScreen. It is a filtering mechanism, a built-in utility program to filter out malicious executable files and applications.

Its primary purpose is to warn users about software coming from unauthorized publishers. Before the system begins with any software installation, Windows Defender SmartScreen validates its Code Signing Certificate. And if it finds the certificate authentic, then only installation begins. Otherwise, the end-user encounters a warning message.

The Reasons Behind SmartScreen Warning While Installing a Signed Application

There can be other reasons too behind Windows Defender SmartScreen showing warnings for signed applications. But the following three are the primary ones of all.

Using a Self-Signed Certificate

When software publishers release applications with self-signed code signing certificates, the probability of facing warnings is very high. Operating systems only recognize top Certificate Authorities and their root certificates, so it’s obvious to meet SmartScreen warnings.

In addition, if you utilize an Individual Validated and Organizational Validated certificate, there are still chances of facing alerts.

CA details are not in the built-in database.

While searching on the internet, you can find numerous Certificate Authorities offering digital solutions. However, there are only a few who are, by default, recognized as legitimate by the operating systems. When you sign your software with a certificate with not so recognizable CA, your users can face warnings from SmartScreen.

Expired Certificate and No Timestamp

When you sign your software, you must always timestamp it to prevent warnings after certificate expiration. If your certificate expires and there’s no timestamp, the SmartScreen filter will find it coming from an unauthorized publisher. Therefore, alerts will get displayed on the screen, and the user will lag trust in your brand name.

Approaches to Bypass SmartScreen While Installing a Signed Application

Most websites will show turning off SmartScreen as the primary method to bypass. However, you can’t tell all of your customers to do so. Therefore, to keep your users away from facing warnings and alerts with signed applications, you should implement the following best practices.

Utilization of EV Code Signing Certificate

Extended Validation Code Signing Certificate is the most appropriate approach to remove SmartScreen warnings on any Windows OS version. But, you should always use the EV Certificate from a reliable Certificate Authority, such as Comodo and Certera. It will assuredly provide instant brand recognition as legitimate; as such CA details are by default present in databases.

In addition, you will get the leverage of:

  • Complete removal of SmartScreen warnings
  • Additional Security of Private Key through FIPS-140 aligned hardware token
  • Timestamping functionality to make your software valid for an unlimited time

Signing Software using Microsoft Authenticode Code Signing Certificate

You can utilize the Authenticode Code Signing Certificate in the Code Signing Certificate approach. But remember, you must select the EV Authenticode Certificate to eliminate SmartScreen warning messages.

Authenticode Code Signing Certificate is particularly for tamper-proofing Windows-based executable files. And it is consistently recognized by the advanced filtering mechanism installed in Windows operating system. Moreover, if you use the EV or Authenticode Certificate, you will become eligible to host your software on Microsoft Online Store.

Besides, security professionals also consider utilizing EV and Authenticode certificates to be one of the best methods to bypass SmartScreen warnings.

Distributing Application Through Microsoft Online Store

Microsoft allows only authentic and accurately signed applications to list on its online store. And when any end-user downloads and installs any software from the store, SmartScreen doesn’t show any warning.

If you want the same for your software that bypasses the SmartScreen filter, you can provide it through the online store. By hosting it on the Microsoft store, you will benefit from the following:

  • Your customers will not face warnings for your software
  • Your software’s legitimacy will start to grow organically
  • Your Windows-based stakeholders will easily find your application
  • User trust and brand reputation will rapidly grow
  • You will get aligned with Microsoft store standards, making it seamless to list more applications in future

Perform WACK Validation

Running the Windows App Certification Kit and uploading its report on the specified portal will help you bypass SmartScreen alerts. While the kit will run, your software will get tested against multiple pre-defined standards by Microsoft. And if your software passes the checks, Windows will consider it authentic and non-malicious. Hence, no SmartScreen warning messages.

Furthermore, you will find the Windows App Certification Kit (WACK) under the Windows SDK. Once the WACK starts, it will provide you with the following four options:

  • Validate Windows Store App
  • Validate Windows Phone App
  • Validate Desktop App
  • Validate Desktop Device App

You must select the option according to your requirement and follow the steps as defined by the WACK software. The last stage of the WACK test will provide the results and the link where you have to submit the result report.

Once Microsoft completes processing your report, SmartScreen will recognize your application as legitimate. Therefore, end-users will never face SmartScreen warning messages whenever they try to install it.

The Best Code Signing Certificate Provider For You

To avail of the best code signing certificate to bypass SmartScreen warnings, you must select an authorized provider. Although, you don’t have to search for it, as SignMyCode (Sectigo’s authorized partner) has all the relevant solutions for you.

Whether you need an EV Code Signing Certificate or Authenticode Code Signing Certificate, you can obtain one from SignMyCode. In addition, it also provides the benefit of:

  • Dedicated support service, available 24/7
  • Free Tools, Guides, and Learning Resources
  • Code Signing Certificates directly from Certificate Authorities
  • Top-Notch certificates at cheap prices
  • 30 days money back promise

Concluding Up

Windows SmartScreen is a well-established security mechanism that blocks the installation of unauthorized applications. Utilizing self-signed, expired, or non-reliable CAs Code Signing Certificate is the primary reason behind seeing warnings for signed applications.

And if you want your software to bypass the SmartScreen, you must prefer using an EV Code Signing Certificate or EV Authenticode Certificate. Moreover, you must try to distribute your app through Microsoft’s online store. And to increase the software and brand reputation, you can also perform the WACK test. By performing any defined approaches, your software can bypass the SmartScreen for Signed Applications.

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Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.