PKI and Digital Certificates

Public Key Infrastructure and Digital Certificates

Public key cryptography has become widespread as a way to protect users, networks, data, and critical business systems. Whether PKI digital certificates are 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 digital certificate issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) 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.



Organizations deploying internal PKIs have the flexibility to define the security models that fit their specific needs, but they face a number of management challenges when it comes to 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 digital 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 and enable malicious use of revoked digital 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.



Public Key Infrastructure and Digital Certificates: nCipher Solutions

Products and services from nCipher 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.

nCipher supports all leading PKI vendors including Entrust Datacard. As part of its nFinity Technology Partnership Program, nCipher performs interoperability testing with all leading PKI vendors and publishes comprehensive whitepapers and integration guides to help your organization understand key security considerations to accelerate deployment and minimize risk. By taking advantage of products, expertise, and services from nCipher and its nFinity Technology Partners, you will be able to operate PKIs confidently across your enterprise.


nCipher 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.
  • Simplify the task of demonstrating compliance and responding to forensic and auditing requests through tightly enforced key management policies.
  • 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.