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Basics of Public Key Infrastructure: Types & Components

Basics of Public Key Infrastructure: Types & Components

In the modern digital world, everything is becoming easier with the constant technological development across the globe. One such technology, which protects all the significant digital developments from malware, hacking, and other malpractices globally, is Public Key Infrastructure, also known as PKI. To describe in short, PKI is used for authenticating users and devices, which includes processes like digitally signing documents by using cryptographic keys or protecting communications by automated encryption.

In PKI, encryption is performed to guarantee the safety and privacy of information while it is sent from one person to another. "Key" here is kind of a lock (encrypt) and unlock (decrypt) for the data that is being transmitted. Public Key Infrastructure uses pair of keys to encrypt or decrypt communications. A private key is held independently by its owner, and a public key is open for everyone and distributed to intended recipients. Digital messages are encrypted using the public key, then decrypted with the holder's unique private key – which may also be used in generating digital signatures.

What Types of Encryptions Does PKI Use?

Public Key Infrastructure employs both symmetric and asymmetric encryption for securing data. Both the encryption types have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, which makes the combination stronger.

  • Symmetrical Encryption:

    Symmetric encryption processes use the same key for encryption and decryption. In this process, the entities communicating via the shared system must exchange the key data used in the decryption process. Therefore, it is a critical method in which the same key is used between sender and recipient to transfer the data. The secret key that both the sender and recipient use could be a specific password/code, or a random string of letters or numbers generated by a secure random number generator (RNG).

  • Asymmetric Encryption:

    Asymmetric encryption is relatively new to the game, and you may know it better as ‘public-key cryptography’. In the asymmetric encryption process, there are two separate keys: one key is for encryption, and another key is used for decryption. The decryption key that is a private key, that is kept confidential to the owner, while the encryption key or public key can be shared publicly for anyone to use. SSL uses asymmetric encryption technology to encrypt and decrypt data to security.

3 Vital Components of PKI

PKI solutions include a few components on a protected framework and preserve confidential information in activities involving a digital key, for example, in SSL certificates, encrypted documents, email communication, smart card logins, etc. These components play a crucial role in securing digital information and online transactions. Thus, there are three central components of PKI that contribute tremendously to security.

  • Digital Certificates:

    A Digital Certificate is a fundamental unit of Public Key Infrastructure. It serves as a digital identity of websites and organizations. With the help of PKI, the connection is secured while two machines are communicating with each other as it uses digital certificates to verify the identity. Devices can get their certificates for commercial sites through third-party issues called Certificate Authority. Certificate Authorities are a licensed unit that issues digital certificates to companies across the world.

  • Certificate Authority:

    A Certificate Authority (CA) authenticates the users' digital identifications, including individuals, computers, and other entities. A trusted party provides the root of trust for all PKI certificates and provides services that can be used to authenticate the identity. The issuing and accountability of certificates act similarly to a driving license. Thus, Certificate Authorities assure the parties are identified in a PKI certificate giving organizations a digital certificate to trust the devices.

  • Registration Authority:

    A Registration Authority, also called subordinate CA, handles authorization by Certificate Authority to issue digital certificates for specific users or organizations permitted by the root. Both of these entities store all the authorized certificates that are either requested, received, or revoked by them. All certificates are stored in an encrypted certificate database. RA is often customized to verify an individual's identity as a part of the initialization process, such as verifying the physical presence and other identifications. It helps in generating identification materials like keys for the end-users.

When it comes down to security, we rely on Public Key Infrastructure every time we shop, bank, or fill out official forms. All of these include sharing our precious and sensitive information on the online platform. The threats always exist, that’s why we prefer to trust companies to protect our data from illegal practices. Thus, using services from an authentic, secured, and reliable platform is the need of an hour. Choose GlobalSign PKI-based solutions to guard your confidential data against breaches. Connect with us today to get all the information regarding our services or visit our website for an overview.

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