7 Innovative Uses Of Public Key Infrastructure In Cybersecurity

March 28, 2024

There have been many developments in the past year in the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and cybersecurity markets that have prompted organizations to reevaluate and improve their security measures. These include new regulations and changes, conversations about how long certificates should be valid, evolving cyber threats enabled by artificial intelligence, and concrete examples of the disastrous effects that security incidents can have on IT departments and businesses in the modern digital world.


GlobalSign’s CPO, Lila Kee, discusses the shifting market conditions and strategies that companies should employ to stay ahead of the curve: The proposals of important stakeholders, such as the CA/B [Certificate Authority/Browser] Forum and internet browsers, indicate a marked change in the PKI and cybersecurity sectors’ dedication to data and digital identity protection. 


These developments will impact how businesses function at every level, and several solutions are available to help them manage them.


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This blog examines the innovative uses of PKI in cyber and information security.

1. Verification of identity and assurance of the accuracy and completeness of data.


The purpose of Microsoft PKI in cybersecurity is to authenticate the identification of entities participating in a digital transaction. Digital certificates, authorized by a trustworthy Certificate Authority (CA), establish a connection between a public key and the entity that possesses it. This measure mitigates the risk of impersonation or ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks.


PKI guarantees the integrity of the data during transmission by preventing any unauthorized alterations. Digital signatures employ a mathematical method to verify the genuineness and unaltered state of a communication, program, or digital document.

2. Adaptable choices for provisioning


Both on-premises and cloud-based field provisioning should be available from a managed PKI provider. By inserting security keys into hardware using one-time programmable chips, device identities are connected to devices in factory provisioning, which occurs during production. Restricting key injection access to authorized workers is another way to increase security.

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A managed PKI may also employ cloud-based field provisioning to remotely provision identities, which is helpful because several steps in the device’s supply chain might compromise security or add complexity (for example, when using third-party manufacturers with inadequate security requirements). 


This is accomplished by assigning each device a unique, minimum identifier (a bootstrap key) during manufacturing. Upon field deployment, it can undergo authentication and obtain its whole secure identity through cloud-based delivery.

3. Supervision by the Certificate Authority


The WebTrust Program for Certification Authorities was started by the Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) to ensure that managed PKIs follow best practices for certificate provisioning, administration and revocation. You may rest easy knowing the certificate authority is taking every precaution to secure the infrastructure and procedures when they have this degree of validity.

4. Security Modules for Hardware

Hardware security modules (HSMs) are a key component of managed public key infrastructures. HSMs can be custom-made peripheral cards or appliances that execute safe cryptographic operations. Hardware security monitors (HSMs) are pricey but essential pieces of gear for keeping cryptographic activities and keys completely hidden. 


The entity developing the in-house PKI solution must bear the upfront capital expenditure (CAPEX) for HSMs. On the other hand, the suppliers of IoT platforms can take advantage of a pay-as-you-go pricing model for HSM key storage when they sign up for Managed PKI services.

5. Managing certificates during their lifetime


Creating an in-house PKI infrastructure and managing device IDs over an IoT device’s lifetime is complex. By keeping a close eye on digital certificates over their entire lifecycle—from issuance to renewal to usage and possible abuse—a managed PKI service helps keep the public’s faith in the public key infrastructure strong. 


Hackers can get access to protected ecosystems using compromised certificates. To avoid this, a managed PKI service keeps track of rogue certificates in a Certificate Revocation List. These certificates have been hacked or abused and should no longer be trusted.

6. Protecting facilities from insider threats and ensuring their security


At full-service certificate authority, PKI prioritizes the physical security of the infrastructure. To prevent theft or infiltration, it is necessary to install many security measures. Biometric authentication systems for controlling access and authorization, security guards, and surveillance of internal and exterior regions are all examples of what might be considered layers of protection. A solid, safe, dependable catastrophe recovery plan should also be in place.

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To further guarantee that systems are safe from insider threats, PKI utilizes stringent security methods such as frequent and thorough security checks and multi-custody policies, which necessitate the involvement of two or more individuals to execute sensitive tasks. Furthermore, it is essential to keep and oversee thorough audit records.  

7. Affordable Protection


Although there may be a substantial outlay of resources in the beginning for infrastructure upgrades and PKI setup and integration, the long-term savings from incorporating PKI into company security are substantial. With PKI automation solutions streamlining certificate administration, the only expenditures after initial setup are for renewal.


Additionally, PKI may help businesses avoid penalties, legal expenses, and financial losses caused by security breaches or mismanagement; as a result, the operational and security advantages to businesses are well worth the investment.

In the end!

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For safe and verified online communication, PKI is an essential part of cyber defenses. It safeguards data from cyberattacks and unlawful access and verifies the identity of transaction participants. Moreover, when it comes to creating, manufacturing, and overseeing a network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, PKI can be a lifesaver. Through the use of secure authentication, a network may accommodate millions of devices without worrying that a single breach could compromise the entire system.