Public Key Infrastructure

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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Public key infrastructure refers to the digital certificates used in online data exchange, as well as the broader set of arrangements encompassing them. This includes the certificate authority, server software, client software, and the hardware used to implement it all.

When communicating within the public key infrastructure, one user can use his private key to digitally sign a message, affirming his identity. Another user can check that user's digital signature against the public key issued by a certificate authority within the public key infrastructure. Once the information is authenticated, the users can establish confidentiality, and the integrity of the information is assured.

Public Key Infrastructure Within Large Corporations

The public key infrastructure can be quite vast within large corporations, and is often closely linked to an organization's "directory scheme." A directory scheme stores every employee's public key via an embedded certificate, along with other personal data, including each employee's contact information, employment history, and department.

The public key infrastructure protects all of this information, yet utilizes the keys to streamline and secure information exchanged between employees on the company's server. This is done by encrypting the messages, making the data impossible to discern. The messages can then only be decrypted by the appropriate private key. This protects the massive amounts of information that are sent across the server, yet still allows for the easy exchange of that information between the appropriate parties.

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