PKI and Digital Certificates

Learn how PKI (Public key infrastructure) has become widespread as a way to protect users, networks, data and critical business systems.

PKI and Digital Certificates

Public key cryptography has become widespread as a way to protect users, networks, data and critical business systems. Whether it is used to encrypt data and ensure privacy, to digitally sign documents and messages to attest to their integrity and authenticity, or to authenticate users and systems and control access, these public key operations are integral to modern operating systems, commercial security products and custom built systems. E-commerce, online banking, internet gaming, smartphones and cloud computing all rely on the use of digital certificates to represent the digital identity of users, connected devices, web services and business applications.

Each certificate, issued by a Certificate Authority, is based on a pair of cryptographic keys that form a high strength unique credential that is tightly associated with the user or organization in question and that is used to perform secure operations such as encryption or signing." Read our whitepaper, "Securing Your PKI" for an in-depth discussion.

Organizations deploying internal PKIs have the flexibility to define the security models that fit their specific needs, but they face a number of challenges in defining, maintaining and securing their PKI:

  • Theft of CA signing private keys or root keys enables bogus certificates to be issued and any suspicion of compromise may force re-issuance of some or all of the previously issued certificates.
  • Weak controls over the use of signing keys can enable the CA to be misused, even if the keys themselves are not compromised.
  • Theft or misuse of keys associated with online certificate validation processes can be used to subvert revocation processes an enable malicious use of revoked certificates.
  • As new applications are brought on line, not attending to the performance aspects of signing activities associated with issuance and validation checking can result in significant business impact.
PKI and Digital Certificates: Thales e-Security Solutions

Products and services from Thales e-Security can help to ensure the integrity, performance and manageability of your PKI. By securing the process of issuing certificates and proactively managing signing keys, you prevent their loss or theft, thereby creating a high-assurance foundation for digital security. When you add nShield Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) to your PKI, you are deploying independently certified, tamper-resistant devices that are used to secure some of the most sensitive keys and business processes in the organization—a widely recognized PKI best practice.

Thales performs interoperability testing with leading PKI vendors and publishes comprehensive white papers and integration guides to help your organization understand key security considerations and to accelerate deployment and minimize risk. By taking advantage of products, expertise, and services from Thales, you will be able to operate PKIs confidently across your enterprise.

Thales e-Security Benefits
  • Take advantage of easily deployed and independently certified security for all high assurance key management and certificate issuance processes.
  • Offload cryptographic processing to accelerate CPU intensive signing operations, boosting performance and enabling applications and business processes to scale.
  • Eliminate risky manual key management processes.
  • Through tightly enforced key management policies, simplify the task of demonstrating compliance and responding to forensic and auditing requests.
  • Choose from a wide range of HSM form factors and performance ratings to suit various deployment scenarios ranging from large enterprise PKIs to localized or application specific CAs.

Solution Briefs : Thales PKI e-Ticketing

"How Thales Helps Airlines Protect the Integrity and Authenticity of Electronic Boarding Passes. The integrity and authenticity of an electronic boarding pass is validated by checking the digital signature of the barcode they use. A digitally signed barcode protects against forgery and enables validation upon check-in. Carriers use private signing keys to sign barcodes and issue associated public certificates from a public key infrastructure (PKI) for their validation. The degree to which carriers can trust their PKI depends on the protection afforded to the root and issuing CA private signing keys. The private signing keys underpin the security of the entire system, and properly safeguarding and managing them is essential."

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Research and Whitepapers : Upgrading and Improving the Trust of Microsoft Windows Certificate Authorities

This white paper examines the history of Microsoft Windows 2003 Server, the cryptographic landscape when it was introduced and improvements made since then. It will also explore the process of improving certificate authority (CA) security and protection by using Thales nShield hardware security modules (HSMs) and migrating to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2. This paper also contains security recommendations and guidelines for new and existing PKIs that do not need to be migrated as well.

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Research and Whitepapers : Securing Your PKI

"This paper examines the security risks of typical enterprise and government Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs) and describes how, as more high-value business applications increasingly depend on trusted digital credentials, higher assurance solutions are now necessary to reinforce security and mitigate growing risks. Analyzing such aspects as the number of certificates being used, the importance and value of the applications they support, and whether these applications are subject to higher levels of scrutiny due to government or industry regulatory compliance, are some of the critical factors to consider in assessing whether a PKI can still meet the demands of an evolving organization."

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