What is PKI?
Many organizations today have a PKI (public key infrastructure), which is a framework for trust management. PKI is an excellent security solution that allows issuing and revoking the digital certificates that verify the identities of machines and users. These certificates are used to establish and secure communication in business environments, and they are especially helpful as a replacement for the insecure use of passwords.
How Does PKI Operate?
The PKI framework is based on two main components:
- Digital certificates (X.509)
- Certificate Authorities (CAs)
Digital certificates are the drivers’ licenses of the electronic computing world. They are a means of identify and validating a machine’s or user’s identity. Digital certificates are issued by a centralized third party authority, the CA, and have an expiration date.
Certificate Authority (CA)
A certificate authority (CA) creates and issues digital certificates to machines and users. Any certificates that are revoked are detailed in a certificate revocation list (CRL). To continue the driver’s license metaphor, the CA would be the government.
When a user or machine attempts to communicate with another user or machine, the parties can authenticate each other using their digital certificates. Once approved, communication can take place in a secure manner. Furthermore, PKI operates at the application level. This means that each application that is contacted by a user/machine attempts to authenticate the certificate through the CA.
PKI and ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access): Enhancing Your Security Posture
PKI is a great solution for organization security because it is based on an encrypted and technologically advanced authentication factor – unlike passwords, for example. It’s no surprise, then, that many medium and large sized organizations already have some sort of PKI framework in place. They could be using an on-premises solution, like Active Directory Certificate Services (ADCS) or a cloud-based one that is easy to add, like such as AzureAD.
By adding zero trust on top of their PKI, organizations can further improve their security posture. Adding zero trust will also make the management of PKI much simpler.
ZTNA is a security framework built on the principle of eliminating implicit trust and continuously authorizing user identities each time they access and use a network component. Thus, zero trust can also authorize PKI digital certificates to ensure the validity of the user/machine communicating in the network.
This means that zero trust can leverage the existing PKI infrastructure as a means for user and machine authorization. As a result, organizations will be able to guaranteee the security of PKI validation and encryption, and also ensure additional factors are used to authorize users, such as MFA (multi-factor authentication). Zero trust also helps with management of access policies, whose rules can be implemented on digital certificate authorization as well.
Finally, since zero trust is managed from a single UI, IT teams will be able to manage their PKI and additional security measures from a single place, reducing overhead and complexity.
To get a free zero trust consultation, contact the Cyolo team.