Last updated: 21 March 2017
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) security has gotten a bad rap as being a complex beast of a security protocol. It’s often thought to be complex, labor intensive and expensive to implement. But that is just not the case anymore. With modern developments of powerful credential management software, much of manual work is automated and administrators only need to put in minimal efforts. In addition, the growth in the internet of things and the critical need to secure the components has led to an increased interest in PKI. As enterprises and other verticals, such as healthcare, critical infrastructure and law enforcement look to protect data, privacy and networks from a growing threats, PKI is indeed alive and kicking.
So why do we even need PKI?
Back in the old days, people used to ensure their identity through face-to-face communications and counted on official hand written signatures to verify the authenticity of documents. But the age of the Internet has completely changed the way we securely communicate, exchange information and identify ourselves. Today things are a bit more complicated. Today you need to authenticate yourself to people who don’t know you, people who have never seen you, and people who may be located half way around the world. You also need to authenticate to computers, devices and machines. How can those people or computers know you are who you claim to be? With PKI security, we can do all of that and more. We actually use PKI (or parts of PKI) in our day-to-day lives all the time.
What is PKI?
A PKI supports the distribution and identification of public encryption keys. It is a collection of hardware, software, and processes that support the use of public key cryptography and the means to verify the authenticity of public keys. PKI security enables users and computers to verify the identity of parties they’re communicating with, and securely exchange data over private networks as well as public networks such as the Internet. PKI is of course used for authentication, but it also gives users the ability to transfer secure information from one side to another without revealing its content, or possible being tampered with along the way.
It’s military-grade security, so you’re assured of the highest protection of your sensitive documents and authentication of your users. In addition, the need for PKI is growing rapidly as more and more countries promoting digital signature laws, and enterprises are more concern about their data (email encryption as an example).
What can PKI do for me?
In addition to providing peace of mind that your data, users and systems are protected, PKI provides many business advantages such as:
- Military-grade security: PKI provides the highest protection of your sensitive documents and authentication of your users.
- Additional security functionalities: With PKI, you can encrypt data, disk, and email, as well as digitally sign.
- Optimized authentication and cost savings: Password management is costly. PKI security eliminates the need for users to remember long, complex passwords that they will need to change frequently. A single credential will give users access to multiple applications.
- Improved business processes: Eliminating password protocols will reduce helpdesk calls and an overall IT overhead.
So there you have it. The very basics of PKI security. For a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of PKI, please check out our recent webinar The Foundations and Future of PKI: Yes, it’s Alive and Kicking. Whether you’re new to PKI or a seasoned professional who just wants a refresh, this webinar will help you navigate the waters of PKI.