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Guide on PKI Infrastructure and Role of Certificate Authorities

Learning Everything About PKI and its Link with Certificate Authority

Most of us know that to avail of a digital security certificate, one has to submit CSR to the Certificate Authority. But, have you ever wondered how a CA manages data of all the issued certificates?

And the most accurate answer is by utilizing the Public Key Infrastructure PKI.

CA(Certificate Authority) and PKI(Public Key Infrastructure) relate very closely, as they function together to perform core certificate operations at CA’s end. You must be having a lot of questions about their relationship, but not anymore. By reading further, you will understand what PKI is and its Role in Certificate Authorities.

What and Why about Certificate Authority

Certificate Authority is the entity that has the right and authorization to issue digital security certificates to individuals and organizations. You must submit the request to a CA whenever you have to obtain a Code Signing Certificate.

Without Certificate Authority, you can’t build trust across operating systems and web browsers. It is an integral and prominent authority for availing software security certificates. And to become a CA, organizations must participate in the membership program, organized by Operating System and Browser owning enterprises.

Therefore, CAs follow the guidelines by completing membership programs and aiding other firms to align with industry standards.

In addition, (CA) Certificate Authority provides the following leverages:

  • Enhances brand trust across multiple platforms
  • Helps to become a validated software publisher
  • Supports in aligning with industry standards
  • Leads to strengthen code security by issuing a Code Signing Certificate, utilizing the latest encryption mechanism
  • Helps in revoking digital certificates to prevent loss of revenue and reputation

Why Are Certificate Authorities a Vital Part of PKI?

What is PKI?

Public Key Infrastructure is an advanced-level security mechanism with multiple components to ensure data integrity, confidentiality, and availability. Its primary objective is to support CA systems in authenticating the legitimacy of a business.

In addition, people also call it Public Key Encryption, as it uses Public and Private Keys. Both keys are associated, helping the software publisher encrypt and decrypt the source code. Moreover, every organization has its unique pair of keys to develop well-founded security.

Furthermore, such infrastructure handles all the authentication transactions. For instance, when a CA has to validate the details in a Certificate Signing Request, PKI infrastructure gets used.

To understand its more efficiently, let’s get an overview of the PKI components.

Components of PKI (Public Key Infrastructure)

Public key cryptography is a cryptographic technique that enables entities to communicate on an insecure public network securely and reliably verify the identity of an entity via digital signatures. Public Key Infrastructure consists of the following components:

Certificate Authority (CA)

A Certificate Authority is the primary element of Public Key Infrastructure. The central entity authenticates the legitimacy to issue a digital certificate. Without a CA, there’s no purpose for PKI, as there would be no one to verify the publisher’s details. And it would lead to duplication of keys and data breaches.

Hence, CA is the foundational pillar of the Public Key Infrastructure.

Digital Security Certificates

A PKI consists of multiple digital certificates. It can consist of SSL/TLS Certificates and Code Signing Certificates, which the Certificate Authorities manage. Software Publishers and companies utilize such certificates to make their code tamper-proof.

And PKI supports organizations to get validated rapidly, as it streamlines the validation-associated operations.

Standards and Policies

Every Public Key Infrastructure follows some guidelines and performs each operation based on them. As CA is a part of the PKI, it aligns with all the CA/Browser standards. Otherwise, there can be complexities, and key breach probability can increase.

A document named Certificate Policy or CP gets followed, as it defines all the policies for each role associated with the PKI. Moreover, Federal PKI policies are getting issued by NIST, which are mandatory.

All such rules and regulations help in certificate issuance, management, revocation, deactivation, and infrastructure integrity.

Registration Authority (Intermediate CA) and Certificate Store

Registration Authority or Intermediate CA is an entity that issues and revokes digital certificates. It gets authorized by the root certificate authority to perform such operations. And it also helps in maintaining the root CA security, as it functions as an additional layer before reaching out to CA.

Furthermore, it stores certificate information in the database, known as a certificate store. It helps the CAs to analyze the issuance date, expiration date, and applicant details.

What are PKI Certification Authorities?

In the PKI infrastructure, you will find numerous components. And one among them is Certificate Authorities, also known as PKI Certification Authorities. In addition, CAs in PKI is the root certificate authorities, whose details are available in each OS and browser by default.

Further, root CAs have authorized intermediate CAs or Registration Authority to issue and revoke certificates on their behalf. Most of the time, root CAs remain offline, and all the core operations get executed by the intermediate Certificate Authorities.

Therefore, the primary purpose of root CA is to support the organization in establishing trust across platforms. When the systems analyze the digital certificate of software, it also checks the registration and root CA details. And it only allows the installation if CA’s information matches the details in the built-in database.

Understand the Role of Certificate Authorities in PKI and their Requirement

Certificate Authority is the main element of Public Key Infrastructure. Without a CA, there’s no meaning of a PKI. It is the only authority having the right to issue digital certificates to individuals and organizations.

If a PKI does not have a Certificate Authority, it would only be some hardware and software mechanism. Hence, CAs optimize logical functioning and supports the efficient working of the secure internet.

Furthermore, PKI needs Certificate Authorities for the following reasons:

  • To validate the applicant’s details, requiring to avail of Code Signing and SSL/TLS certificate.
  • To revoke the digital certificate at the request of the certificate-owning entity.
  • To maintain the Certificate Revocation List (CRL).
  • To confirm the details of Public and Private Keys.
  • To support the organization in encrypting the source code and making it tamper-proof.

What are Trusted Code Signing Certificates?

While searching for the Code Signing Certificate across the internet, you will find various distributors displaying Trusted Code Signing Certificates on their websites.

Let’s understand the reason behind it. Trusted Code Signing Certificate means that it’s coming from an authorized and registered Certificate Authority. Moreover, it assures that, once you integrate it with your software, the system will trust it, and the user will have a smooth installation experience. Furthermore, the device will not display an Unknown Publisher Warning Message.

Top Code Signing Certificate Providers offering Cheap Code Signing Certificates

You have numerous alternatives if you are looking for a Top Code Signing Certificate Provider. Various organizations are registered as Certificate Providers, aligning with the latest industry standards.

You can go through the below list to learn about the leading providers:

  • Sectigo, formerly known as Comodo
  • DigiCert
  • Thawte
  • Symantec
  • GlobalSign

You can select anyone from the above list to avail of your Code Signing certificate. Moreover, you can purchase it from a registered distributor, such as SignMyCode, providing the Cheap Code Signing Certificate.

All in a Nutshell

Public Key Infrastructure is an advanced computation mechanism to manage digital certificates. And Certificate Authority is one of its primary components. CAS in PKI is responsible for certificate issuance, management, and revocation.

In addition, the infrastructure helps Certificate Authorities validate the applicant’s details before issuing the Code Signing Certificate.

Furthermore, PKI is of no use if a CA is unavailable. Certificate Authorities complies with CA/Browser guidelines and makes the PKI function according to requirement.

annashipman

Anna Shipman is a Cyber Security Consultant at SignMyCode with a strong technical background and experience with a high analytical skillset. She has been involved in the information security industry for over a decade. In her free time, we find her helping small and medium businesses strengthen their information security infrastructure.

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