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The Birth of SSL Certificates and Online Authentication
With the creation of the Internet and its rapid expansion across the globe, the need for users to secure their communications became a very real concern. Any type of data communicated via the Internet can be picked off by dedicated online hackers. Consequently, while the Web attracted entrepreneurs and vendors to start new business ventures with its potential as a global marketplace, it simultaneously attracted criminals. As cyber attacks escalated, cryptographic Internet protocols, like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), were developed in an effort to restore some of the integrity to online transactions.
The Basis of Certificate Authentication
Designed to enable a secure channel of communication between two computing endpoints, SSL-encrypted channels are initiated by the deployment of SSL certificates. Certificates are much like an electronic passport in that they contain identifying information about the certificate holder that is verified by an independent third-party organization, known as a certificate authority, which ultimately issues the certificate and a unique public key (for encryption purposes). The issuance of the certificate is achieved once process requirements have been fulfilled and the public key has been bound to the registering domain. When complete, the certificate authority will endorse the certificate with a digital signature, validating the information contained therein. This signature from the issuing certification authority forms the basis of certificate authentication.
The Certificate Authentication Process
Certificate authentication refers to the process of identifying the end-users in a transaction as well as the series of steps to be executed before identity can be confirmed. The certificate authentication process identifies users by virtue of their issued certificates, and is utilized whenever a secure transaction is initiated between a principle and a recipient, such as a client request to access a secure site. Upon initial request, the domain's server will present its digital certificate to the client with its public key and verified credentials. Yet certificate authentication is not concerned so much with these items as it is the signature of the issuing certificate authority. This signature is what the client browser will validate against its cache of recognized and trusted certificates and library of certificate authorities. If accepted, then certificate authentication is successful. If the issuing certificate authority is not recognized, then the certificate is not authenticated and instead, the user receives notification that the credentials supplied were invalid.
When client browsers verify digital certificates, they are checking to see that the certificate has been signed by a trusted certificate authority. This signature is the most important component of a certificate. Before a certificate will be issued and signed by a certificate authority, the domain must be registered and the owner's credentialing information must be verified. Once endorsed, however, the certificate becomes a unique and unchangeable document that is suitable only for its holder.
Entrust Authority Permits Seamless Certificate Authentication
As a vital component in certificate authentication, the digital endorsement of the issuing certificate authority holds significant value. Entrust upholds this value as a trusted certificate authority. With Entrust Authority PKI security solutions that are built upon the foundation of the Entrust certification authority system, Entrust sustains the integrity of the PKI networking environment through its rigorous and reliable process for certifying products and services. Entrust key and certificate services enable authentication and SSL encryption capabilities that are versatile, transparent and as reputable as the Entrust name itself. This is why Entrust is recognized as a trusted certificate authority by 99% of existing Web browsers. With Entrust SSL services, certificate authentication is certain and seamless.