PKI: Public Key Infrastructure in .NET

Implementation Data Matrix in .NET PKI: Public Key Infrastructure
PKI: Public Key Infrastructure
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both when in use and when in storage. Typically CAs implement the cryptographic algorithms using a cryptographic module. Hardware implementations of the cryptographic modules are safer since they tend to keep the private key of the CA out of the host system s memory and operating system software. This is especially a plus when the CA is located at a place with weak physical security. Archives: The CA must be able to maintain archives on certificates even after their expiration or revocation. The PKI must also be able to attest that a certificate that is now expired was valid at the time it was used for certification. It may also be required that the archive maintains information on if and why the certificate was revoked. This is a very important enabler for forensic studies by law enforcement agencies. Key pair recovery: As an option, the keying material for the client user can be backed up at the CA or a backup server. Example of the keying material can be only a password giving access to the keys, or in some cases, the private key that corresponds to the public key in the client s certificate. One can argue about the benefit of public key cryptography, when big brother is holding a copy. On the other hand, in law enforcement cases, where forensics play an important part, or in mission-critical scenarios where robustness is an important requirement, key recovery becomes an important feature. If a user loses its private key (a disk drive becomes damaged) or forgets a password, PIN or a hardware token, the key pair recovery mechanism provides for recovery of decryption keys from an authorized key backup facility. Key pair update: If the certificate expires or is revoked (due to employee terminations, compromise of private key, and so on), a new public key pair and certificate must be generated.
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As we can see, the certification process involves many complicated and computing-intensive functions. In order to ease the burden put on the CAs, many of these functions are outsourced to other entities. However, to ensure the integrity of the process, public key infrastructures that define the relationship between these entities are put in place. In the following subsection we describe various elements of a PKI.
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9.1.3 PKI Elements
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The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) as defined by IETF PKIX working group (PKI for X.509) consists of the following elements [X5093280] as shown in Figure 9.1:
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End entity: An entity, bound with a certificate generated by the CA in the PKI. The end entity can be an end user or a server, a router or even a PKI entity dealing with the CA. Certificate-using entity: In PKIX terminology, the entity, which uses another entity s certificate for the purpose of public key or identity verification, is called the certificate-using entity. Note that this entity is not the certificate holder, but an entity that has a trust relationship with the certificate holder based on the certificate it receives from the certificate holder. Certificate Authority (CA): The entity in a public key infrastructure (PKI) that is responsible for issuing and typically revoking end entity certificates (users or devices), publishing the certificates and CRLs, and controlling compliance with policies. For scalability reasons, the CA may offload some of its administrative duties to a registration authority (see below) and repositories. Registration Authority (RA): This is an optional element in a PKI. When they exist, RAs are delegated those of CA s original responsibilities that have to do with verification of
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Certificate/CRL retrieval
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End User
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Users Management Entities Certificate publication RA Management Transactions
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Certificate and CRL Repository
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Certificate publication, CRL publication CA Certificate publication CRL issuer
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Figure 9.1 PKI entity and management functions Note: Not all the shown elements exist at every PKI implementation.
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certificate contents and certification requests. More concrete examples of responsibilities of RA include one or more of the following: user authentication and registration, public and private key pair generation and generation and submission (to the CA) of certificate requests on behalf of users. There is, however, one CA responsibility that cannot be delegated to an RA: the RA can never issue a certificate. Implementation of an RA has the benefit of retaining control over the registration process within the organization, even in cases when the CA is outsourced to an external agency. Repository: A collection of systems that are in charge of storage and distribution certificates and certificate revocation lists (CRL). For storage, many types of directory and directory access methods, such as LDAP, HTTP and FTP are used. CRL issuer: Again this can be an optional PKI entity, to which the CA delegates the responsibility of publishing the certificate revocation lists. This may be referred to as a CRL server. The CRL server may use either of the push or pull methods to entities that require the latest CRLs. The push method may be useful for network servers, such as VPN gateways (or access control servers) that need to frequently examine certificates from users requesting service. If the VPN gateway receives the latest CRLs as they arrive, it does not ask for them every time it receives a certificate from an end user. The pull method is useful for entities with sporadic needs for CRLs, such as an entity that has received a certificate from a server and needs to verify the validity of the certificate. The CRL server may also support certificate status checking procedures such as Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP), so that CRL server itself, instead of the certificate-using devices, checks the certificate against the CRL based on the request from those entities. This feature is useful when timeliness and bandwidth-efficiency are required of the status-checking process.
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