How To Secure Cloud Servers and Services with PKI Certificates?

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pki certificate
pki certificate

Digitalization of the business processes has completely transformed the traditional ways of doing business. The scope and arena of doing business has been tremendously enhanced. The introduction of cloud based services led to the digital transformation of businesses. Initially there were security issues but recently the cloud providers have become successful in winning their client’s trust. Today every business is willing to use cloud and thinking of utilizing it to their benefit in the best possible way. You need only a few servers and applications to start with and later extend it to more advanced applications that enable security and respond to changing business needs.

Security is the most important issue to be dealt with while using applications on the cloud services. Mostly the unintended human errors like default passwords, expired digital certificates are the cause of security breaches. With the coming up of the managed service providers the enterprises feel more secure than ever. Managed PKI encrypts and secures the connections among different applications, people and devices across the enterprise.

Public key infrastructure (PKI)

PKI i.e. public key infrastructure is the basic framework that enables the users and servers to exchange information securely using digital certificates. The general internet users, web clients, web browsers, company servers and the virtual machines (VMs) use PKI. PKIs are not a single physical entity instead it includes various components – the hardware, software, policies, procedures, various entities needed to distribute, verify and revoke certificates.

The public keys were used only to secure email, digital signatures and SSL certificates only. But today PKI supports a number of connected devices and enterprise applications like DevOps and IoT security. Managed pki guarantees trust to businesses making itself the most reliant today.

PKI is a two-key asymmetric cryptosystem; one is a public key and another private key. Digital keys are used to lock and unlock the digital materials. Lock refers to encryption which is the process of scrambling the digital information to protect it from the unauthorized viewers. Therefore with the help of a key you can lock or unlock data as per your wish. The keys can be shared.

PKI includes the following key elements:

  • Certificate authorities (CAs): it is a trusted party providing the root of trust for all PKI certificates. Each CA has its own root CA to be used only by the CA. It provides assurance about the parties identified in a PKI certificate. 
  • Registration authority: it issues PKI certificates and is known as a subordinate CA. The root CA certifies and authorizes to issue certificates for specific uses permitted by the root.
  • Certificate store: it helps the programs running on the system to access stored certificates, certificate revocation lists (CRLs) and certificate trust lists (CTLs).
  • Certificate database: it stores information about the issued certificates including the validity period and status of each PKI certificate. Certificate cancellation is done by updating this database. It is queried to authenticate any data digitally signed or encrypted with the secret key of the certificate holder.

A PKI certificate or digital certificate authenticates the identity of the server associated with the public key. It is a data package including various digital files, documents and cryptographic data used to validate an entity’s identity. The users of PKI will have to verify their and the recipient’s identity to send information. Managed pkis require additional verification to avoid corrupt practices. Digital certificates are issued by credible institutions to confirm their legitimacy.

A digital certificate can be obtained from a publicly trusted CA like Sectigo or DigiCert. They issue, distribute and revoke digital certificates to various entities on the basis of country or company specific legislation. Individual companies can also use their own in-house CA system if they require an additional level of security and possess the necessary infrastructure to support it.

PKI framework is most commonly used in Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols. SSL and the Transport Layer Security (TLS) help in establishing the authenticated and encrypted links between different networked computers used in PKI. PKI are used for:

  • digital signature software and applications
  • encrypting the emails
  • internet of things (IoT) security
  • network security
  • server-hosted communication protection
  • password recovery
  • file description
  • smart card authentication
  • web communications security

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