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What is PKI Management and How Does it Work?

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In today’s world, enterprises need to issue thousands of certificates to authenticate their employees’ devices as well as manage the certificates issued for the protection of their cloud storage systems.

The internet keeps millions of devices connected and each of these devices needs to be authenticated to validate their identity. The issuance, management, and monitoring of their certificates is a complicated job. This is where PKI management takes over.

PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) is designed to offer strong multi-factor authentication and encryption services that enable organizations to secure the transmission of sensitive data within their web network. The server and the devices connected to it need to be authenticated to ensure that the data is being exchanged by authorized and trustworthy sources. Here’s what you need to know about PKI and how to make it work for you.

What is PKI Management?

PKI management involves executing a number of indispensable tasks such as organizing, distributing, monitoring, storing, renewing, replacing, and revoking digital certificates along with managing public-key encryption for the purpose of uninterrupted and safe exchange of data between the components of a network.

Organizations can host their own private PKI and request certificates from their Certificate Authority (CA). But manually performing tasks like purchasing, constantly monitoring, implementing, and adhering to all the certificate policies are next to impossible to execute effectively.

That’s where a security certificate management system comes in. These offer the automated management of the lifecycle of certificates as well as key management in public cloud.

How Does PKI Management Work?

PKI management governs everything related to certificates, their lifecycle, and functions. Here are the stages of a certificate lifecycle in no particular order that are handled by a certificate management system:

  • Creation

This phase initiates the creation of the certificate. An organization or a web user requests a digital certificate from the Certification Authority (CA).

The CA is responsible for issuing a certification and enrolling the user. Upon verification of the organization’s/user’s information based on the established policy rules, the CA creates the certificate for them, posts it, and sends an identifying certificate to the organization/user. During the deployment of certificates, the CA puts in place the policies that influence the use of the issued digital certificate.

  • Validation

When the certificate is in use, the CA checks the validation status of the certificate and verifies that the certificate is still valid and not in its Certificate Revocation List (CRL).

  • Discovery

Here, the missing, faulty, expired, or unused certificates can be found. These certificates are then renewed, replaced, or revoked. This phase discovers the inconsistencies in the security of the certificates. If any is found, the information is delivered to the monitoring phase which consequently seals off any cracks. Additionally, this phase is also responsible for making inventories of certificates for future discovery assistance.

  • Monitoring

In this important phase, the at-risk certificates are monitored, assessed, and then are sent to be renewed or revoked accordingly. The monitoring phase uses the inventory created in the discovery phase to track the creation, expiration, and revocation dates.

  • Revocation

Certificates issued by the CA have an expiration date that. The certificates that get lost or are compromised are revoked before their expiration date. The CA may add the certificate to the Certificate Revocation List (CRL).

  • Renewal

On expiry, if the certificate policy permits, the certificate is renewed automatically. On renewing the certificated it depends on you whether you’d like to generate new public and private keys.

Why Businesses Must Invest in PKI Security

One of the major reasons why online businesses must invest in added security is that all organizations, big or small, are susceptible to getting hacked and experiencing theft. No one is completely immune from cyber attacks but investing in cybersecurity can prevent businesses from suffering huge losses.

As businesses expand, so do their networks. Thousands of various certificates have to be issued in order for businesses to secure their communication, trust their network and protect their customers’ personal and financial information.

Improper management of digital certificates and keys create issues such as service outages, increase in downtime, and security compliance issues. PKI automation reduces the room for errors and executes all tasks effectively, helping businesses obtain an uninterrupted and safe flow of communication and reduced downtime.

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