One of the new features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has been the addition of Gatekeeper. By only allowing apps to be installed from the Mac App Store, Mountain Lion’s Gatekeeper feature gives users a new level of security from malicious software.
Some users feel Gatekeeper is a sign that Apple is moving toward a completely closed desktop operating system that will only allow apps from the Mac App Store to be installed. Easing concerns of this draconian controversy, this afternoon Apple announced the Developer ID program that will help third-party developers distribute their apps safely outside of the Mac App Store.
For developers who do not wish to distribute their apps through the Mac App Store, Apple is now offering them a way to provide their customers with the assurance that their app is certified by Apple. Developers apply for a Developer ID that is verified when a user installs the new software on their Mac.
The Mac App Store is the safest place for users to get software for their Mac, but we also want to protect users when they download applications from other places. Developer ID is a new way to help prevent users from installing malware on their Mac. Along with Gatekeeper, a new feature in OS X Mountain Lion, signing applications with your Developer ID certificate provides users with the confidence that your application is not known malware and has not been tampered with.
Mac OS X users will soon have the option of turning on Gatekeeper, a new Mac OS X security feature. When a user does this, the system provides an additional measure of safety: it blocks that user from opening newly-downloaded applications that are not Developer ID–signed. In this scenario, the same user is easily able to launch downloaded applications that are Developer ID–signed
Designed to complement Gatekeeper, Developer ID gives users the ability to install software only from identified developers regardless of whether they downloaded it from the Mac App Store or via a web browser. All members of the Mac Developer Program are currently eligible to obtain and use Developer ID code signing certificates which can be obtained through Xcode 4.3 Apple sent out news of Developer ID this afternoon in an email, so details are fairly scarce. A tutorial on the new program can be downloaded here.