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Blog Post Apr 03, 2024

Why isn't PKI everywhere?

PKI plays a vital role in authenticating identities and securing digital communication, safeguarding users, devices, and data. While critical for various sectors, many organizations face challenges in implementing robust PKI solutions. Let's delve into the importance of PKI adoption, the barriers hindering its widespread use, and strategies to overcome implementation roadblocks for optimal ROI.

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Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) allows organizations to authenticate identities and secure digital communications (e.g., between web browsers and web servers) to protect users, connected devices, applications, and data. It ensures secure information exchange, prevents data breaches, and supports risk management through robust encryption and authentication mechanisms.

PKI is critical for various sectors, and there are many risks for not using a robust PKI to protect your infrastructure. However, there are also many roadblocks to a successful implementation. Let's explore why organizations should implement PKI, why so many aren't doing it, and how to overcome implementation roadblocks to maximize your ROI.

Why is PKI important?

PKI is an essential cybersecurity component, supporting secure digital communication, identity management, and access control. It provides a trusted framework for authenticating and managing the digital identities of individuals or entities involved in online data exchange and transactions.

The framework helps mitigate cyber threats by verifying digital signatures and ensuring data integrity. It provides the foundation of trust for reliable and secure online transactions (e.g., banking, e-commerce, etc.).

PKI strengthens cybersecurity

A well-designed cybersecurity strategy supported by robust encryption and authentication mechanisms is paramount in today's fast-evolving threat landscape, where the cost of a security breach has skyrocketed. PKI provides a trusted framework for secure communication using public and private asymmetric key pairs to ensure only the intended recipient can decrypt sensitive data.

PKI also facilitates digital identity authentication and digital signature verification to establish trust in online transactions and communications. It protects digital ecosystems against unauthorized access, data breaches, information tampering, and other malicious activities.

PKI enhances trust in digital transactions

PKI provides a reliable mechanism for verifying the legitimacy of the entities involved in a digital transaction through digital certificates (e.g., SSL/TLS) and cryptographic keys issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs). Users can confidently engage with your organization's online properties (e.g., website and online services), knowing that you're a legitimate entity and who you say you are.

The PKI framework offers a scalable and interoperable solution to mitigate the risks of fraud, data breaches, and unauthorized access to sensitive data. It can also support a Zero Trust architecture to guard against attack methods like phishing scams, man-in-the-middle attacks, and Domain Name System (DNS) attacks.

PKI supports regulatory compliance

PKI offers the mechanisms for protecting sensitive information and ensuring data privacy required by many regulatory frameworks and industry standards. It provides a secure and standardized method for digital identity management and data encryption required by regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.

Through the implementation of a robust PKI, organizations can demonstrate adherence to these standards and avoid the legal and financial consequences of noncompliance, such as fines, lawsuits, a damaged reputation, diminished public trust, and loss of business.

PKI ensures non-repudiation

Non-repudiation ensures a party can't deny they've performed an action like signing digital documents or transmitting specific data. PKI allows organizations to achieve technical non-repudiation through digital signatures. When a user or entity digitally signs a document or performs a transaction, the system attributes the signature to the entity through its cryptographic key.

This mechanism authenticates data origin since only the entity that possesses the private key can generate a corresponding signature. It's vital for legal and regulatory purposes, providing a robust foundation for trust and accountability while reducing the risk of disputes in electronic transactions.

PKI supports business continuity

Business resiliency is essential in the face of cyber threats and disruptions. PKI supports business continuity by maintaining digital assets' confidentiality, integrity, and availability, enabling organizations to restore operations quickly and reduce downtime. Additionally, secure communication, data encryption, and user authentication mechanisms mitigate the impact of cyberattacks.

PKI also supports remote access through authentication mechanisms, allowing employees to work from anywhere without compromising security (e.g., during a natural disaster when they can't access the office.)

Why isn’t PKI everywhere?

The complex, lengthy, and costly implementation process often prevents smaller consumer-level technology companies that don't have the resources of enterprises like Apple or Samsung from implementing PKI. Additionally, organizations supporting car computing systems, healthcare technologies, large-scale manufacturing, and critical infrastructure (e.g., power grid, traffic lights) are often behind the curve.

Here are the top reasons preventing many organizations from reaping the benefits of PKI:

Designing PKI into a system is costly

This challenge is especially relevant for companies in the consumer-level technology sector, where the fast-growing number of IoT devices has exponentially increased the complexity of implementation. The cost and perceived difficulty of designing PKI into an infrastructure have prevented many organizations from using PKI in their systems.

Potential delay in time-to-market impacts competitiveness

Companies in the fast-shifting consumer-level technology market must move quickly to introduce new products to stay relevant and competitive. The perceived difficulty, complexity, and lengthy timeline of implementing PKI may delay adoption.

Consumers don't focus on security

The consumer-level technology market doesn't reward security because it isn't the average buyer's priority. Therefore, companies aren't incentivized to spend the time and money to implement PKI. Instead, they invest their resources in creating innovative features to gain market share and stay ahead.

Legacy systems slow down innovation

Some legacy platforms and computing systems for sectors like healthcare, large-scale manufacturing, and critical infrastructure involve many moving parts and are difficult to upgrade. The scale, dependencies, and complexity make incorporating modern PKI into these legacy systems arduous and time-consuming.

The fear of outages and resistance to change hinder PKI adoption

Uptime is essential for critical systems, and the risk of outages (e.g., due to expired certificates) may prevent some organizations from implementing PKI to enhance their security. Meanwhile, many of these institutions aren't tech-native, and their cultures don't prioritize cybersecurity awareness. Often, leaders don't understand the urgency to initiate change.

How to overcome PKI implementation roadblocks

The challenges above are valid barriers organizations must address to support successful PKI implementation. These short-term hurdles could prevent you from taking action and reaping the long-term benefits of PKI. For example, the initial expenses of implementing PKI may seem high. Yet, the potential cost and damage of a data breach could be devastating for your organization.

Automating your PKI Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM) processes, such as issuance, renewal, and revocation, is critical for maximizing the long-term ROI of PKI implementation while mitigating risks like outages and disruptions caused by revoked or expired certificates.

For example, the finance industry is a successful adopter of PKI in the critical infrastructure sector. Digital transactions are now the norm, facilitating global commerce and streamlining many business processes.

Simplify PKI implementation with Sectigo

A comprehensive CLM automation platform like Sectigo Certificate Manager allows you to implement a robust PKI cost-efficiently while overcoming many roadblocks, such as lengthy processes, high maintenance costs, and the risk of outage. Meanwhile, our managed PKI services help you implement standards and principles to maximize the benefits of PKI.

Learn more about Sectigo's managed PKI services to see how we can help you build a solid foundation to support robust security mechanisms.

Want to learn more? Get in touch to book a demo of Sectigo Certificate Manager!

Related posts:

PKI & identity and access management (IAM)

PKI for enterprise businesses: the why and how