November 13, 2022

PKI Certificates: What They Are and Why You Need Them in IoT Security

In the modern world of internet-of-things, we are surrounded by an increasing number of internet-connected devices in our homes and workplaces. From fitness trackers to smart locks, these ‘intelligent’ devices are constantly sending and receiving data to other devices, sensors, and computers. To ensure that this data is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties, it is vital that these devices use PKI certificates to encrypt their messages.

What is a PKI certificate?

A PKI certificate is a digital certificate that uses public key cryptography to bind a user’s identity to a public key. This allows for the secure exchange of information between the user and a third party, such as a website or email server. This is because PKI certificates are used to verify the identity of a user before allowing them access to sensitive information or systems.

PKI certificates are issued by a certificate authority (CA), which is a trusted third party that verifies the identity of the user before issuing the certificate. The CA also signs the certificate with their own private key, which ensures that the certificate cannot be tampered with or forged.

When a user attempts to access a system or website that requires a PKI certificate, their identity is verified by checking the digital signature on the certificate against the CA’s public key. If the signature is valid, the user is granted access.

Why do I need a PKI certificate for my IoT device security?

When it comes to securing your IoT devices, a PKI certificate is an essential piece of the puzzle. Here’s why:

  • PKI certificates are digital signatures that certify the identity of a device or server. They use encryption to ensure that the data transmitted between the device and server is secure.
  • PKI certificates are used to authenticate devices and servers, as well as to encrypt and decrypt communications. This makes them an important part of any security solution for IoT devices.
  • PKI certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities (CAs). When choosing a CA, it’s important to select one that is reputable and has a good track record. A CA with a strong reputation will help to ensure that your PKI certificate is trusted and will be accepted by other devices and servers.

If you’re looking to add an extra layer of security to your IoT devices, then a PKI certificate is definitely worth considering.

How can I use PKI certificates in my organisation?

Organizations can use PKI certificates to improve the security of their IoT devices in several ways. By using PKI certificates, organizations can ensure that only authorized devices and users can access their network and data. Additionally, PKI certificates can be used to authenticate devices and users, as well as to encrypt communications between devices.

PKI certificates can also be used to create a chain of trust between IoT devices and the organisations backend systems. By creating this chain of trust, organizations can more securely manage their IoT devices and protect against malicious attacks.

Who are the stakeholders in a PKI infrastructure?

When we talk about stakeholders in a PKI infrastructure, we are talking about the entities that have a vested interest in ensuring that the PKI system is secure and functioning properly. This includes the Certificate Authorities (CAs) that issue digital certificates, the Registration Authorities (RAs) that manage certificate enrolment and revocation, and the relying parties (e.g., businesses and individuals) that rely on digital certificates to verify the identity of others and to establish secure communications.

How do we manage and protect the certificates?

When it comes to PKI certificates, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure their security. First and foremost, you need to make sure that you keep them in a safe and secure location. This means keeping them away from prying eyes and potential hackers.

If your PKI certificate is due to expire, you should replace it as soon as possible. Depending on the type of certificate, you may be able to renew it. If you are using a self-signed certificate, you will need to generate a new one.

If you are using a CA-signed certificate, you can check with the CA to see if they offer a renewal service. If they do not, you will need to generate a new CSR and submit it to the CA for signing.

If your device has been compromised, or if there is any reason to believe that the private key associated with your PKI certificate may have been compromised, you should generate a new CSR and submit it to the CA for signing.

Using PKI Certificates in your Business

PKI certificates are a vital part of ensuring the security of your IoT devices. By understanding what they are and how they work, you can be sure that your devices are as secure as possible. PKI certificates provide a high level of security by encrypting communications and authenticating devices, making them an essential part of any IoT security strategy.

Louise José