Through The Fog... Public Key Infrastructure

    Date06 Feb 2003
    CategoryCryptography
    3461
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Security is a strange phenomenon in IT. Like a Will O' The Wisp, it's elusive. And so we are faced with the promise and the reality of Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs) - such a useful, powerful technology, coupled with near total . . . Security is a strange phenomenon in IT. Like a Will O' The Wisp, it's elusive. And so we are faced with the promise and the reality of Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs) - such a useful, powerful technology, coupled with near total apathy on the part of the user community to implement it.

    That's a bit of a generalisation. Public key cryptography is in common use. In fact, every time you see the little golden key in the status bar of your browser, that's PKC at work. However, it's a point-to-point thing. What has never quite caught the imagination of the wider world is the implementation of digital certificates for more general use.

    If this has been gobbledegook so far, it might be worth defining some terms before we move on. Encryption is a well-known way of protecting data from being seen by the wrong people. The tricky bit is letting people know how to decrypt information when it arrives. The encryptor needs to send a suitable key and if this falls into the wrong hands (or even the right ones) what's to stop another person using the key and passing themselves off as the encryptor?

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