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Security Dictionary
Can't tell 'smtp' from 'snmp'? Find the precise meaning of these and hundreds of other security-related terms in our convenient and up-to-date Security Dictionary.
public-key infrastructure (PKI)
(I) A system of CAs (and, optionally, RAs and other supporting servers and agents) that perform some set of certificate management, archive management, key management, and token management functions for a community of users in an application of asymmetric cryptography. (See: hierarchical PKI, mesh PKI, security management infrastructure, trust-file PKI.)

(O) PKIX usage: The set of hardware, software, people, policies, and procedures needed to create, manage, store, distribute, and revoke digital certificates based on asymmetric cryptography.

(C) The core PKI functions are (a) to register users and issue their public-key certificates, (b) to revoke certificates when required, and (c) to archive data needed to validate certificates at a much later time. Key pairs for data confidentiality may be generated (and perhaps escrowed) by CAs or RAs, but requiring a PKI client to generate its own digital signature key pair helps maintain system integrity of the cryptographic system, because then only the client ever possesses the private key it uses. Also, an authority may be established to approve or coordinate CPSs, which are security policies under which components of a PKI operate.

(C) A number of other servers and agents may support the core PKI, and PKI clients may obtain services from them. The full range of such services is not yet fully understood and is evolving, but supporting roles may include archive agent, certified delivery agent, confirmation agent, digital notary, directory, key escrow agent, key generation agent, naming agent who ensures that issuers and subjects have unique identifiers within the PKI, repository, ticket-granting agent, and time stamp agent.

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