PKI stands for Public Key Infrastructure. Let’s break it down in simple terms:
Imagine you want to send a secret letter to your friend. You have a special box with a lock, but you want only your friend to be able to open it. How would you do it? You’d need a special kind of lock and a system to manage the keys.
PKI is like this system for digital communication. It helps people securely exchange information on the internet.
Here’s how it works:
- Two Keys: In PKI, there are two “keys”: a public key (like an open box anyone can put things into) and a private key (like a secret key only the owner can use to open the box).
- Certificates: When someone wants to prove they own a public key, they get a digital certificate. It’s like an ID card issued by a trusted organization (called a Certificate Authority) saying, “Yes, this public key belongs to this person/website.”
- Trust: For the system to work, everyone has to trust the organization issuing these digital ID cards (Certificate Authorities). Computers come with a list of these trusted organizations, so they know which digital ID cards to trust.
- Secure Communication: When two devices want to talk securely, one device says, “Hey, here’s my public key (open box). Put your secret message inside.” The other device uses this public key to lock (or encrypt) the message. Once locked, only the private key (owned by the first device) can unlock (or decrypt) and read the message.
- Digital Signatures: PKI can also be used to “sign” digital documents. Just like signing a paper document to prove you agree with it, a digital signature uses your private key to show the document came from you and hasn’t been changed by anyone else.
In essence, PKI is a system that lets people and devices prove their identity online and communicate securely. It’s the backbone of many security processes on the internet, like when you visit a secure website (https://) or when software gets updated safely.