Some time ago when I was learning about PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) I searched for any process diagram that shows and visualyze step by step ceriticate enrolment process by CA or other encryption or authentication steps in the PKI enviroment in simple and detail manner. Because I have not found any have decided to draw it and explain the process, hope will help to understand the issue.

Before we will discuss the ceriticate enrolment process we have to explain the background shortly. OK so let’s start.

The base of the PKI is the concept of Asynchronous Keys. Asynchronous Keys is the encryption algorithm that can be use to secure transport data over unsecure connectivity, additonaly due to the nature of algorithm authenticate identity.
The idea of algorithm is based on two differtent keys (public and private key) that are mathematical related to each other, where private key derived from the public key. Message encrypted by recipient’s public key can only be decrypted by the corresponding private key (we can encrypt the message only by related key), and vice-versa, message encrypted by the owner’s private key can be only decrypted by the owner’s public key that is commonly available. Based on first case we achive data intergrity and confidential because only owener of private key will be able to decrypt the message and properly read the data, based on second one, reciver of the message can authenticate the sender because once decrypt the message and properly read a data, he knows that data have been sent by proper source (owner of private key). Above algorithm has revolutionized the encryption and authentication way. The only one problem was a public key distribution, this what the PKI is about.

Once we generate public/private key pair, we have to make the private key public available and the get global authority confirmation that the private key belong to as (at least it’s good to have confirmation from globally trusted source). Here Certificate Authority (CA) comes in to play. We have a lot of nice institution like VeriSign or GlobalSign and others that we can trust. The primary task of them is to confirm that generated public key belongs to us so can be used to exchange message in secure way.

Ceriticate enrolment process
I will explain the process based on the following example with user A (instead of user we can have any device: router or server, simple end point that will physically encrypt data).


1. User A generates pair of keys: public key A and private key A.
2. User A sends to the CA, own public key A with additional details that will identify user A like name, surname, departament city, country, e-mail address etc.
3. CA verifies user A data, next takes user A data and public key A as input and do SHA (or MD5) hash function – Data# A is output of this alghorith.
4. CA then uses own Private key CA and encrypts Data# A, Digital signature of the CA is output of this process.
5. User A Data, Public key of A, Digital signature of the CA, and specific details assigned by the CA like certificate serial number, issued and valid date, point of CRL distribution (and many more) creates User A Certificates.
6. Users A can get certificate and start use it to encrypt and authenticate data.

I hope this post will helpfull and clarify certificate enrolment process. If you have any comments please let me know. In next post I will discuss the encryption and authentication based on the digital certificate.

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