Public Key Infrastructure and How It Works

Public key infrastructure refers to the public keys that are used to secure and encrypt data during the transmission process. The public key is a digital signature that is inserted into the data that ensures that the data being sent or received has indeed originated from the person that it claims to be from. Public keys are used in email messages, device drivers, computer applications, and other related programs.

How Public Key Infrastructure Works

Public key infrastructure is based on an application known as a digital certificate which functions as a virtual identification card. A digital certificate serves as authentic identification for data, computers, software applications, and any other related programs that may require proof of identity of its place of origin. A digital certificate can be assigned to an actual person or technology device.

  • Public Key Creation: Public key infrastructure involves the use of a pair of encryption keys that are assigned to a specific user. The encryption keys are created via a mathematical process that is based on the user's digital certificate or virtual identification card and include a private key and a public key.

The private key is used to encrypt the file and the public key is used to decrypt the file. Only the person that encrypts the information can possess the private key where the public key can be used by anyone to decrypt the information. While anyone can get access to the public key, the private key ensures that the information was encrypted by the person who transmitted the data to the receiving party.

  • Public Key Infrastructure: Public key infrastructure works through several components that make up the entire operation of encryption procedures. The process involves client software, certificate authorization server software and smart card hardware. The public key infrastructure system deploys a certificate sequence to establish the user's identity. Before identity can be established, the certificate authority computer must be certified by a higher certification influence which authenticates the certificate process for distributing encryption keys.

Public key infrastructures are primarily used for the encryption of data and authentication of documents when they are transmitted via email messaging. They are also used for authentication during smart card logins to identify the user with the application they are trying to access.

It is important to note that although public key infrastructures contain a hierarchy of authentication processes for secure data encryption, it is also important to choose a reputable certificate authority if you are not planning on creating your own digital certificate process.

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