Short for Public Key Infrastructure, PKI is a technology system that enables secure online communication through encryption techniques. It forms the backbone of numerous web-based processes, including secure emails, digital signing, file encryption, smart card authentication, instant messaging, and server identification, among others.
Proper PKI management enables you to safeguard data from unauthorized third parties while avoiding pitfalls such as lack of agility, ineffective integration, and poor visibility.
Admittedly, efficient PKI management is an extensive field, and you may find yourself out of your depth. Consider working with trusted professionals who have years of experience in PKI cyber security. That said, this is no excuse for lacking knowledge about best management practices in the niche. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
1. Make a Detailed Plan
You probably know well enough to think things through before making any decision for your business, considering that a single simple mistake may be all it takes to destroy your entire PKI. For instance, if you have several departments or product lines, do you want to use a single private CA or several? Uniformity simplifies things while using separate CAs allows for part of your business to be cleanly severed if you expect to sell it in the future.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid limiting your decisions to things that will only get you through the day but rather factor in what your business will look like in a few years. An expert could help you think things through.
2. Secure Storage
Store your keys and security certificates in a secure location, usually on a computer or system with a Hardware Security Module (HSM) for protection. Another security barrier is a policy for determining who has access to keys and certificates. Do not forget that the threat may also come from within the house.
3. Avoid Using Short Keys
One common misconception that a novice PKI manager may have is that choosing shorter keys results in better performance, which is often not the case because most devices have the adequate computational capacity to handle a standard SSL certificate adequately. On the flip side, shorter keys may be straightforward for a hacker with substantial hardware to crack.
Guessing private keys gets easier with the advancement of technology, so it is necessary to keep increasing their sizes and complexity. 1024 bit keys were the bare minimum just two decades ago, but today's standard figure is at least 2048 and may have to go up by 2030.
4. Use Up-to-date Security Protocols
An algorithm such as SHA-1 may have been a marvel in the past and perhaps that’s why some connections still use it, but almost 20 years have passed since it was cracked. Consider using SHA-2 or better, and talk to your SSL certificate manager about migrating to TLS for better security.
5. Bring in the Experts
We have only scratched the surface of what goes into proper PKI management, which shows just how big a role skilled resources may play. Sure, having private PKI may provide for more flexibility, but so does any trusted SSL certificate authority worth its salt.
When you buy your SSL certificate from experts, they help you stay current on PKI management and encryption trends, such as the much-awaited advent of post-quantum cryptography. A trusted vendor will offer future proof and save you a lot of restructuring trouble.
They would also provide priceless insight into refined details about your specific needs, helping you plan adequately, avoid unnecessary inclusions, and save resources.