Public Key Infrastructure Copy - Provision Software
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DATA SECURITY  |  Public Key Infrastructure

Public Key Infrastructure

Represents a system designed to manage public-key encryption and digital certificates.

Security Features of PKI

PKI is emerging as the foundation for secure electronic commerce and Internet security by providing the cornerstones of security:

The importance of authentication, verifying the identity of users and machines, becomes crucial when an organization opens its doors to the Internet. Strong authentication mechanisms ensure that persons and machines are the entities they claim to be.

Encryption algorithms are used to secure communications and ensure the privacy of data sent from one computer to another.

PKI can be used to provide non-repudiation through digital signatures. This proves that a specific user performed certain operations at a given time.

Together, these elements combine to provide a secure, non-breakable environment for deploying e-commerce and a reliable environment for building virtually any type of electronic transactions, from corporate intranets to Internet-based eBusiness applications.

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    Components of PKI

    The main components of a public key infrastructure are:

    Digital certificates

    Digital ``identities`` issued by trusted third parties, that identify users and machines. They may be securely stored in wallets or in directories.

    Secure sockets layer (SSL)

    An Internet-standard secure protocol

    Public and private keys

    Form the basis of a PKI for secure communications, based on a secret private key and a mathematically related public key

    Certificate Authority (CA)

    Acts as a trusted, independent provider of digital certificates

    Other important factors which enable the deployment of PKI include: secure storage of certificates and keys; management tools to request certificates, access wallets and administer users; and a directory service acting as a centralized repository for certificates.

    Advantages of the PKI Approach

    The PKI approach to security does not take the place of all other security technologies; rather, it is an alternative means of achieving security. The following advantages of PKI have led to its emergence as an industry standard for securing Internet and e-commerce applications.

    PKI is a standards-based technology.

    It allows the choice of trust provider.

    Although PKI is not notably a single sign-on service, it can be implemented in such a way as to enable single sign-on.

    It is highly scaleable. Users maintain their own certificates, and certificate authentication involves exchange of data between client and server only. This means that no third party authentication server needs to be online. There is thus no limit to the number of users who can be supported using PKI.

    PKI allows delegated trust. That is, a user who has obtained a certificate from a recognized and trusted certificate authority can authenticate himself to a server the very first time he connects to that server, without having previously been registered with the system.

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