Small business owners have seen their responsibilities skyrocket. They are tasked with improving their products and services as well as marketing their business and securing their digital infrastructure. However, not all business owners are marketers or IT professionals. As a result, these tasks are typically outsourced.
When it comes to cybersecurity, encryption and public key infrastructure, or PKI, businesses turn to cybersecurity experts but too frequently the professionals that companies get to handle the keys and certificates necessary for PKI are a little out of their depth. To find out whether or not the professionals you are enlisting to improve security are worthy of their mettle, here are a few things you need to know.
What is PKI?
Public key infrastructure is a security measure that verifies and authenticates data users. “The purpose of a public-key infrastructure is to manage keys and certificates. By managing keys and certificates through a PKI, an organization establishes and maintains a trustworthy networking environment” (source here). The simplest example is a contact form. If a website visitor fills out contact information on your landing page, then your site needs to know that your visitor is an actual person and not a robot or a hacker. On the other end, the website visitor needs to be assured that your business site is what it appears to be. This fundamental example of encrypted data exchange between users is one link in what is commonly called a “chain of trust.”
What Powers PKI?
PKI’s chain of trust is secured by public key infrastructure and certificate authorities. The encryption keys keep messages and other transmitted data secure. The certificates are referred to as “the root of trust” because they certify that the parties sharing information are who they say they are. To reinforce this idea, this article helps explain it with a question and an answer, “how do you really know that you are transmitting the data to the actual server and not to an imposter? One way of insuring the integrity of the transaction is to use digital certificates to prove the identities of both machines.” These two facets of PKI are powered by algorithms. These algorithms generate encryption keys and verify certificates.
What Should You Look For In A PKI Professional?
A PKI professional should have a solid understanding of various PKI protocols. Typically, PKI protocols are managed by third parties, and there is no governing authority for any of the protocols. Which means that according to this article, “Frequently, the professionals that companies get to handle the keys and certificates necessary for PKI are a little out of their depth.” This doesn’t mean that all professionals are inexperienced, but it means that there are certain standards to look for when looking for a PKI professional.
These standards include:
- Rotate certificates and keys regularly
- Update security protocols consistently
- Generate complex and lengthy keys
- Maintain a trusted certificate authority, or CA
- Issue keys through a third-party
You should look for a PKI professional that offers automated services. Automated services are more efficient than manual processes, and they provide timely certificate renewals. Automated systems are also essential for developing a centralized security management system.
If you or your company needs an effective web development toolset for building white label websites for clients, then check out our portfolio and see if we’re a good match for what you and your growing business are looking for!