Crypto Glossary

Public-Key Infrastructure

A public key infrastructure (PKI) is a collection of roles, rules, hardware, software, and processes for creating, managing, distributing, using, storing, and revoking digital certificates, as well as managing public-key encryption.

What Is a Public-Key Infrastructure?

Public-key infrastructure is a framework that includes tools for creating public keys for encryption, which ensures that information transferred on the internet is secure.

All modern web browsers have PKI inbuilt in them that aids the security of web traffic of users on the network. Many organizations use it to secure internal communications and often it is also used to ensure that connected devices are safe.

The PKI technology is also associated with cryptographic keys that encrypt and serve authenticated users and devices in the digital environment. To verify that a specific key belongs to a user or device, the PKI involves one more trusted party to certify the authentication through digital signs. The key then works as the digital identity of the user on the network.

Most computers and web browsers trust many certificate authorities by default.

The foundation of public key infrastructure is digital signature technology, which employs public-key cryptography to create each entity's secret key which is only known to that entity and is used for signing. In addition to a user or device, it could be a program, process, manufacturer, component, or something else that can be linked to a key that serves as the identity of an entity.

The public key, which is derived from a private one, is made accessible to the public and is commonly included in the certificate document.

A certificate authority is a trusted third party who signs the document that links the key to the device. Furthermore, it possesses a cryptographic key that is used to sign these documents. These are known as certificates.

PKI is important because it involves encryption and identity verification that enables trustworthy, secure online communication. For example, in a firm, PKI can verify an intruder trying to gain access to the network via a connected device which in turn helps to keep a dangerous threat at bay.

PKI operates by utilizing two main systems: certificates and keys. A key is a series of numbers that is used to encrypt data. The key formula is used to encrypt each element of a message. For instance, suppose a plaintext message, "Cool," is encrypted with a key, say "323vjhqwhdj." Our message "Cool" has been encrypted with this key, and it now reads "X5xJCSycg14=", which appears to be random garbage data. If someone obtains this key, they will receive what appears to be a meaningless message and decrypt it.

The public key is freely available to anyone and is used to encrypt messages sent to you. After receiving the message, you use a private key to decrypt it. A complex mathematical calculation is used to connect the keys. Even though the private and public keys are linked, this complex calculation facilitates the link. As a result, determining the private key using information from the public key is exceptionally hard.

Certificates verify the person or device you want to communicate with. When the proper certificate is associated with a device, it is considered valid. The authenticity of the certificate can be verified using a system that identifies whether it is genuine or not.

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