Checking Code Signing and Sandboxing Status in Code

WARNING: Please do not use this code in your apps. It was just a quick experiment and is neither well tested nor secure.


  • February 23, 2012: I put the code for the category on GitHub and added a corresponding link to the article. I also added a custom prefix to the category methods to avoid possible namespace problems.
  • July 4, 2014: Added warning not to use the code.

The codesign Utility

On the command line, you can use the codesign utility to check whether a Mac app is signed. For example, codesign --display --verbose=4 /Applications/ will display a whole lot of info about Preview’s code signature:

Format=bundle with Mach-O universal (i386 x86_64)
CodeDirectory v=20100 size=12266 flags=0x0(none) hashes=605+5 location=embedded
Hash type=sha1 size=20
Signature size=4064
Authority=Software Signing
Authority=Apple Code Signing Certification Authority
Authority=Apple Root CA
Info.plist entries=32
Sealed Resources rules=12 files=172
Internal requirements count=1 size=1144

You can also use codesign to determine whether an app is sandboxed and, if so, list its sandboxing entitlements. The command codesign --display --entitlements - /Applications/ will display the contents of the entitlements property list that is embedded in the application binary:

��qq`<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">

Doing it in Code

Can we do the same in code? Yes we can. With a lot of help from my coworkers Jörg Jacobsen (see his work on XPC and Sandboxing for the iMedia framework) and Christian Beer (who pointed me to the source code for the codesign utility), I wrote a category on NSBundle that can tell you for any application bundle:

  • whether it has a valid code signature,
  • whether it is sandboxed and
  • whether it was downloaded from the Mac App Store.

The public interface for the category looks like this and should be self-explanatory:

// NSBundle+OBCodeSigningInfo.h
typedef enum {
    OBCodeSignStateUnsigned = 1,
} OBCodeSignState;

@interface NSBundle (OBCodeSigningInfo)

- (BOOL)ob_comesFromAppStore;
- (BOOL)ob_isSandboxed;
- (OBCodeSignState)ob_codeSignState;


Code Signing Services

For the implementation, we need to look at the Code Signing Services in the Security framework. The SecStaticCodeCreateWithPath() takes the URL of an app bundle and returns a reference to a so-called static code object that represents the bundle’s code. We can then call the function SecStaticCodeCheckValidityWithErrors() on the static code object to obtain information about its code signature.

Additional Requirements for the Signature (Sandboxing)

To determine whether an app is sandboxed, we can call SecStaticCodeCheckValidityWithErrors() again, this time with the additional code requirement (passed as the third argument to the function) that the code object contains a certain entitlement (which is in our case). The call to create this requirement looks like this:

static SecRequirementRef sandboxRequirement = NULL;
SecRequirementCreateWithString(CFSTR("entitlement[\"\"] exists"), kSecCSDefaultFlags, &sandboxRequirement);

Have a look at the documentation for the Code Signing Requirement Language to learn how to formulate other requirements you might have.

Mac App Store Receipt Check

The implementation of the last method, -ob_comesFromAppStore, is rather unrelated. It simply checks whether the bundle contains a Mac App Store receipt. OS X 10.7 has a special method to find the App Store receipt in the bundle: appStoreReceiptURL. If 10.6 compatibility is important for you, you have to hard-code the path to the receipt at Contents/_MASReceipt/receipt.

The Source Code

Check out the full source code of the category below. I use associative references to cache the values of some variables that I use in multiple places, such as the code signature state. Update February 23, 2012: The code is now also available on GitHub.

// NSBundle+OBCodeSigningInfo.m
#import "NSBundle+OBCodeSigningInfo.h"
#import <Security/SecRequirement.h>
#import <objc/runtime.h>

@interface NSBundle (OBCodeSigningInfoPrivateMethods)
- (SecStaticCodeRef)ob_createStaticCode;
- (SecRequirementRef)ob_sandboxRequirement;

@implementation NSBundle (OBCodeSigningInfo)

- (BOOL)ob_comesFromAppStore
    // Check existence of Mac App Store receipt
    NSURL *appStoreReceiptURL = [self appStoreReceiptURL];
    NSFileManager *fileManager = [[NSFileManager alloc] init];
    BOOL appStoreReceiptExists = [fileManager fileExistsAtPath:[appStoreReceiptURL path]];
    return appStoreReceiptExists;

- (BOOL)ob_isSandboxed
    BOOL isSandboxed = NO;
    if ([self ob_codeSignState] == OBCodeSignStateSignatureValid)
        SecStaticCodeRef staticCode = [self ob_createStaticCode];
        SecRequirementRef sandboxRequirement = [self ob_sandboxRequirement];
        if (staticCode && sandboxRequirement) {
            OSStatus codeCheckResult = SecStaticCodeCheckValidityWithErrors(staticCode, kSecCSBasicValidateOnly, sandboxRequirement, NULL);
            if (codeCheckResult == errSecSuccess) {
                isSandboxed = YES;
    return isSandboxed;

- (OBCodeSignState)ob_codeSignState
    // Return cached value if it exists
    static const void *kOBCodeSignStateKey;
    NSNumber *resultStateNumber = objc_getAssociatedObject(self, kOBCodeSignStateKey);
    if (resultStateNumber) {
        return [resultStateNumber integerValue];

    // Determine code sign status
    OBCodeSignState resultState = OBCodeSignStateError;
    SecStaticCodeRef staticCode = [self ob_createStaticCode];
    if (staticCode)
        OSStatus signatureCheckResult = SecStaticCodeCheckValidityWithErrors(staticCode, kSecCSBasicValidateOnly, NULL, NULL);
        switch (signatureCheckResult) {
            case errSecSuccess: resultState = OBCodeSignStateSignatureValid; break;
            case errSecCSUnsigned: resultState = OBCodeSignStateUnsigned; break;
            case errSecCSSignatureFailed:
            case errSecCSSignatureInvalid:
                resultState = OBCodeSignStateSignatureInvalid;
            case errSecCSSignatureNotVerifiable: resultState = OBCodeSignStateSignatureNotVerifiable; break;
            case errSecCSSignatureUnsupported: resultState = OBCodeSignStateSignatureUnsupported; break;
            default: resultState = OBCodeSignStateError; break;
        resultState = OBCodeSignStateError;

    // Cache the result
    resultStateNumber = [NSNumber numberWithInteger:resultState];
    objc_setAssociatedObject(self, kOBCodeSignStateKey, resultStateNumber, OBJC_ASSOCIATION_RETAIN);

    return resultState;

#pragma mark - Private helper methods

- (SecStaticCodeRef)ob_createStaticCode
    NSURL *bundleURL = [self bundleURL];
    SecStaticCodeRef staticCode = NULL;
    SecStaticCodeCreateWithPath((__bridge CFURLRef)bundleURL, kSecCSDefaultFlags, &staticCode);
    return staticCode;

- (SecRequirementRef)ob_sandboxRequirement
    static SecRequirementRef sandboxRequirement = NULL;
    static dispatch_once_t onceToken;
    dispatch_once(&onceToken, ^{
        SecRequirementCreateWithString(CFSTR("entitlement[\"\"] exists"), kSecCSDefaultFlags, &sandboxRequirement);
    return sandboxRequirement;