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A Digital Certificate is a digital
ID card of sorts, much like a drivers license. It binds a public
key to a specific person, business, document, software etc, much like
a drivers license attaches your license number to the human being
who is you. A digital certificate, signed with the Certificate Authoritys
private key, includes:
- X.509 certificate version (currently v1, v2 or
- Unique serial number for this certificate.
- Signature algorithm ID.
- Period of validity, including expiration date
(after this date, the certificate will need to be renewed or replaced
in order to continue to be used).
- Certificate Authority which issued the certificate.
- Name/identify of subscriber whose key is indicated
by the certificate.
- Subscribers public key.
A certificate is also considered
to contain all documents referenced in it, even if those
documents are not actually included in the certificate data itself.
A Digital Certificate is a digital ID card which binds a public key to the individual or item identified by the certificate.
Information included in a Digital Certificate includes the X.509 version, the unique serial number, period of certificate validity (including expiration date), name of issuing Certificate Authority, name of individual to whom the certificate belongs, and that individuals public key.
Additionally, certificates arent
limited to identifying humans. They can also be used for identifying
systems and organizations. Some common types of digital certificates
- Personal certificate identifies a person
- Server certificate identifies a server,
enabling a user to verify that servers identity, and engage in
SSL or TLS-based communication with it
- Object-signing certificate allows you
to sign ActiveX controls, java applets, Microsoft .CAB files, etc. to
securely identify the source of those files
Many Certificate Authorities offer
different levels of digital certificates, which offer varying degrees
of authentication. For example, a certificate user may have a higher
degree of trust in a certificate when the certificate authority has
received and verified business license information, credit card data,
etc., but this extra effort is not performed in all cases. The certificate
buyer chooses the level of the certificate they obtain. Why not always
opt for the most trusted one, with the highest guarantee of authenticity?
Because the more validation the Certificate Authority (see below) has
to do when issuing the certificate, the more the certificate costs to
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CertiGuide for Security+ (http://www.CertiGuide.com/secplus/) on CertiGuide.com
Version 1.0 - Version Date: November 15, 2004
Adapted with permission from a work created by Tcat Houser et al.
CertiGuide.com Version © Copyright 2004 Charles M. Kozierok. All Rights Reserved.
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