What is PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and why do I need it?


Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is the combination of software, encryption technologies, and services that enables entities to protect the security of their communications and business transactions on networks. Using a combination of private (e.g., secret) key and public key cryptography, PKI enables a number of other security services, including data confidentiality, data integrity and non-repudiation. PKI integrates digital certificates, public key cryptography, and certification authorities into one complete network security architecture.

A typical PKI infrastructure encompasses:

  • The issuance of digital certificates to individual users and servers
  • End-user enrollment software
  • Integration with certificate directories
  • Tools for managing, renewing, and revoking certificates
  • Other related services and support

A PKI certificate allows someone to digitally bind their identity and use the certificate to perform some of these functions:

  • Encrypt and authenticate e-mail messages and documents
  • Digitally sign e-mail messages and documents
  • Authentication and/or authorization of users to networks and applications e.g., PIV credential login
  • Authorization of a user to an application giving rights to perform specific functions
  • Perform any of the above functions using a personal computer or mobile device

As a government employee or contracted worker, you may need now, or at some time in the future, a PKI certificate to gain access to the agency information network and systems.

Email This Link