PKI Reading Time: 3 minutes

PKI – Uses and Risks

In a digital world with Cyber breach becoming a common challenge, validating and trusting an Identity becomes one of the most important aspect of Cyber Security. As such Public Key Infrastructure creates a security ecosystem by acting as the center of trust for all system by issuing Digital identities in the forms of Digital Certificates.

In addition to creating digital identity, these devices also authenticate and encrypt digital communication by use of cryptographic keys in the combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption. A public key and a private key is owned and obtained by the specific certificate or key owner. The goal of PKI is to attain trust by issuing and managing digital certificates where secure trust is created within an environment. Within this secure environment, the PKI will establish a structured system giving the ability of certain technologies. 

Certificates act as a driver’s license displaying all the information needed to ensure identification of the particular user, server, or issuing authority as well as ownership of the public key as well.

 Top 3 Use Cases of PKI from our Experience:

  1. PKI for Web Applications

    Browsing the internet is often done using HTTPS, a secure version of HTTP that is the primary way to visit websites. While we use HTTPS, our connection to the server is encrypted.

    To ensure we connect to the correct server, our browser initially accepts a certificate from the server. Then it validates the certificate and uses the public key in the certificate to establish a secure connection. That certificate proves the server’s authenticity, increases security, encrypts the connection, and lets the user trust the website.

    If the certificate is invalid or expired, the browser will notify the user not to trust the website and often may not even allow the user to visit that particular website. The browser may also stop the user from visiting sites that are not using HTTPS connections.

  2. Device/User authentication

    PKI provides digital certificates that prove the authenticity of the user. Since the user is authentic, if the user is authorized, it acts to authenticate users onto an area using smart cards or onto the network. PKI extends far beyond just user authentication. It allows users and systems to verify their identity and communicate over the air like in the cases of certificate-based Wi-Fi authentication. PKI also.

    Using those digital certificates can also authenticate other devices and servers to have access and privilege to the network. This can also include Intrusion Detection Devices or other network devices such as routers. PKI also plays a big role in VPN authentication. Moreover. as there is highly sensitive data that is accessed through VPN, certificates are considered the preferred method for authentication.

    Generally, the CA is stored on the firewall of the device and once the user is authenticated. A secure tunnel is created between both the communicating entities.

  3. Data Integrity

    PKI can be used for communication, where both parties can check each other’s authenticity, which would lead them to trust each other’s identity and then also encrypt their conversation. This highly increases the security and trust among the parties participating in the communication.

    A prime use case of PKI in communication is secure email. S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) uses digital certificates to encrypt emails. Both sender and recipient need a trusted CA-signed certificate. S/MIME utilizes these certificates to ensure authenticity of the sender and encrypt the email content that only the intended recipient can access using the public key.

Below are the Top 3 Risks of PKI from our Experience

  1. Failure to properly protect or store Encryption Keys

    The most common issue is the failure to protect private keys. Whether the device is an IoT device with a secure policy or a laptop with a trusted platform module, it is incredibly important to ensure that private keys cannot get in the hands of anyone other than the intended person. Fortunately, there are modern technologies to prevent this and ensure proper protection.

  2. Issuing Certificates to unintended parties/multiple parties

    Mismanagement of certificates can lead to issuing certificates to unintended parties also called as rouge certificates. Rogue certificates are trusted certificates that are issued by a trusted CA, but are either compromised or issued to the wrong party. Allowing rogue certificates or CAs to operate in your environment without taking them under management can create a whirlwind of issues.

  3. Weak keys and infrequent key rotation

    One of the most common issues in PKI implementation is the use of weak keys. Weak keys that are smaller than 2048 bits are considered as vulnerable. And keys that are not sufficiently strong are a point of exposure, leading to an underlying problem to PKI implementation.

    As these keys do not expire, the rotation of keys frequently is not a common security practice, even though it should be. By rotating keys frequently, enterprises can prevent cybercriminals from exploiting compromised keys to impersonate legitimate websites.

How can Encryption Consulting help?

Effective certificate management within Active Directory environments is essential for maintaining security. Encryption Consulting provides specialized services tailored to streamline this process, identifying vulnerabilities and mitigating risks by providing PKI Services. Our expert assistance ensures seamless implementation and optimization, aligning strategies with industry best practices.


Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) serves as a cornerstone in ensuring trust and security in digital environments. By issuing and managing digital certificates, PKI facilitates secure authentication, encryption, and communication, enhancing overall cybersecurity posture. However, effective implementation of PKI necessitates meticulous key management, vigilant certificate issuance practices, and robust security measures to mitigate risks such as key compromise and rogue certificate issuance.

Free Downloads

Datasheet of Public Key Infrastructure

We have years of experience in consulting, designing, implementing & migrating PKI solutions for enterprises across the country.


About the Author

Divyansh is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, specializing in Public Key Infrastructures (PKIs) and cloud applications. With extensive experience developing software applications, he is adept at working with clients to develop specialized solutions. His expertise in PKIs and certificate lifecycle management enables him to develop Encryption Consulting's CLM solution, adding a valuable dimension to his skill set. His work with clients has ensured they achieve the best possible outcomes with encryption regulations and PKI infrastructure design.

Explore the full range of services offered by Encryption Consulting.

Feel free to schedule a demo to gain a comprehensive understanding of all the services Encryption Consulting provides.

Request a demo