Why Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) as a Service Makes Sense

November 2, 2023

Public key infrastructure (PKI) actually started to be developed in the mid-1970s. To put it succinctly, it is a way to enable trusted and secure communications between parties. It does this by issuing digital certificates to ensure each participant in a communication is who he/she/it claims to be. The “its” (machines) are especially important not only because of the security environment, but also because today’s enterprise has three times the number of machine identities compared to human ones.  It’s just as important to make sure these machines are legitimate as it is for humans.

Most of us see PKI at work all the time, even if we don’t know it as that. We most commonly see it on e-commerce sites. These sites use PKI to communicate account numbers through a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). PKI issues digital certificates, including those used for SSL, to ensure that these communications are secure. For end-users, this means entering credit card information and knowing it is not being seen by unwanted eyes.

The Challenges of PKI

Secondly, PKI can be relatively complex to manage and requires a level of expertise that most companies don’t have to scale. Also, with the evolution of PKI, many organizations have seen the original architects of the technology leave. Now these companies are depending on pricey consultants to pick up where they left off. This is why Axiad research shows that 52% of organizations don’t have PKI expertise in-house, even though they need it.

Organizations adopt technology as it evolves. While this might be good in that they adopt the most modern version of technologies, it can also cause “fragmentation bloat” where similar stand-alone technologies procured for different use cases proliferate. As you might suspect, PKI has followed this trend and become highly fragmented, adopted in the absence of a greater enterprise-wide PKI strategy. Therefore, most organizations know that PKI is secure, but they don’t use it to its fullest extent. This is compounded by the fact that PKI can be difficult and costly to manage, and the various tools currently existing in the enterprise might not support the use cases they need it for.

Enter Machine Authentication

One of the most compelling use cases for public key infrastructure (PKI) is machine authentication. Since Axiad realizes the challenges that organizations can face with PKI, one of our offerings is PKI as a service (PKIaaS). This is PKI optimized for the management and deployment of machine and payload certificates, and Axiad provides all the back-end expertise, so our customers don’t have to be concerned with hiring it in-house.

Axiad’s PKIaaS provides highly secure certificates at scale and everywhere needed – including partner, vendor, and bring your own device (BYOD) machines. Emails and attached documents can be matched with a certificate of the end user, thereby verifying the origin and non-repudiation of emails (inability of the recipient to deny getting it). The combination of product functionality and the SaaS delivery model helps lower the cost of operating an in-house PKI and allows organizations to consolidate or retire costly existing PKI systems and outside consultants.

How It Works

Axiad PKIaaS is a consolidated, highly customizable, and scalable PKI for providing highly secure certificates at scale. The three key benefits are:

  • Consolidated: A single package provides certificates to machines and interactions across the entire ecosystem. This allows for the unification of multiple PKI components into a single, scalable package.
  • Built-in Deep Expertise: Axiad provides deep PKI expertise and best practices for PKIaaS, relieving customers of this responsibility. Axiad’s offering includes 24×7 operations and support, maintenance and upgrades, and a bevy of design, onboarding, and customization services.
  • Security Architecture: The PKIaaS cloud environment is hardened by a dedicated instance for each customer. This lets them know they are not sharing resources with another entity, making them as secure as possible. Axiad PKIaaS also has hardware security modules (HSMs) and is SOC 2 Type II certified annually.

Why It’s Time for PKI as a Service

Adversaries are taking advantage of the expanding attack surface to execute supply chain, man-in-the-middle, and social engineering scams. This erodes the digital trust required for organizations to function and innovate.

Axiad solves this problem with a cloud-native PKI system delivered as a service. It’s an ideal way for organizations to ensure that all communicators are who they say they are, and that they and only they receive communications content. This gives everyone the flexibility, power, and certainty to make digital trust a reality. That’s the power of PKI as a Service.

For more information about Axiad’s PKI as a Service offering, read our brochure and book a demo.

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