It’s been a challenging year so far. The COVID 19 pandemic has sent the entire planet into chaos. With brick and mortar businesses struggling to stay afloat, the online world has taken the center stage now.

The lockdown and social distancing have forced companies to shift their operations from offices to a home environment. For many businesses and their employees, the transition to a remote workplace is not only a psychological but also a technical challenge. According to a Gartner CFO Survey, three in four CFOs intend to move at least 5% of their on-site workforces to remote positions after the pandemic ends.

But not everyone laments the current life and work conditions. For cyber-attackers and con artists, such turbulent times offer countless opportunities to commit fraud. Scammers are sending 18 million hoax emails about Covid-19 to Gmail users every day, according to Google. With companies facing enormous provocation to recreate a secure working environment at employee’s homes, PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and its correct implementation have never been more important.

What is PKI and why it matters?

PKI is the backbone of cybersecurity. It’s a set of technologies and directives that keep the Web safe. PKI encrypts communications between servers and clients. On top of that, PKI helps organizations remain compliant with the latest web security and privacy guidelines. The best way to understand PKI is to see how all its core elements interconnect.

We’ll start with Certificate Authorities, the entities that provide trust to the entire PKI system. CA’s verify the identities of websites and companies and issue digital certificates to users, servers, IoT devices, and other computer systems. Without them, PKI just wouldn’t work because everyone could just issue a self-signed certificate and claim to be Google, Facebook, or any other business.

Digital certificates are another fundamental part of PKI. Officially called X.509 certificates, these small digital files contain the information about the owner’s identity, the keys to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data, and the digital signature of the CA. Digital certificates are versatile and can encrypt anything from websites to software and IoT devices. They include:

  • SSL/TLS certificates to secure websites, mobile apps, and IoT devices
  • CPAC and S/MIME certificates to secure email communications, and documents 
  • Code Signing certificates to secure software

What makes PKI function is public and private cryptographic key pairs. The public key is available to everyone that connects with the server. The private key is generated during the connection, and it is kept secret. When communicating, the client uses the public key to encrypt and decrypt, and the server uses the private key. This protects the user’s sensitive data from cyber-thieves.

Another essential aspect of the PKI is the chain of trust, a hierarchical list of certificates that link back to the trusted Certificate Authority. Finally, the PKI can’t do its job efficiently without the best certificate management practices and proper tools to maintain the certificate lifecycle.

How to use PKI to protect your Business?

Whether you’ll return to office after the pandemic or continue to work remotely, keeping your business secure should be a top priority. The economic uncertainty still hangs in the air. When COVID-19 hit us, many IT departments rushed to scale networks and provide remote access to key apps and services that employees use. Without the PKI to secure apps, login credentials, passwords, and connections, businesses would become prey to the relentless cyber-thieves.

PKI can improve your security in many different ways. For starters, using an SSL certificate for all your websites is a must nowadays. If you don’t encrypt your site, the leading browsers will mark it as not secure. A security warning will greet your visitors, and they’ll leave in droves. SSL Certificates are very flexible and can secure intranet and extranet systems, as well as public IP addresses.

For any company, efficient and confidential communication with partners and clients is critical to success. Today, email correspondence remains the most popular means of communication. That’s why encrypting your messages and documents is imperative. Thanks to email SSL certificates, you can digitally sign your emails and validate your identity as the sender. Moreover, along with your messages, the email certificates will also digitally sign your documents (Microsoft and Open Office) and will provide user two-factor authentication for stronger password security.

Wrapping it all up

While scientists are struggling to develop safe vaccines against COVID -19, the Internet already has a strong antidote for cyber-attacks. The PKI and its elements have proven time and time again that building a secure Web is possible. Many businesses are now at the crossroads in these uncertain times. No matter how you organize your work, protecting your systems and sensitive data is the foundation of success.