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We have already explored the motivations and protocols for deploying cryptographic technology throughout the enterprise (see Securing Communications Over an Intranet: Part 1). We'll now describe three typical deployment scenarios and examine the design trade-offs for each:



  1. Building versus outsourcing a certificate infrastructure

  2. Safeguarding communications over the internal Web

  3. Enabling single-user login across the enterprise

Building Versus Outsourcing a Certificate Infrastructure

X.509 certificates may be used on an intranet or over the Internet. However, they may serve very different purposes when used inside or outside a corporation. The next two sections explore certificate use on the public Internet and on an intranet.

Public Server Certificates

Your company may want to install a server certificate that attests to your public server's identity. Why? Because you must convince the external certificate authority that it is indeed you by performing whatever due diligence the certificate authority requires. For example, a certificate authority might require that you send a letter from its board of directors, submit a copy of its articles of incorporation, or allow credit or other third-party checks to be performed.

Only after it is satisfied that you are who you say you are will the certificate authority issue a server certificate that you may install on its public server. The essential service that a certificate authority provides is authentication: The certificate authority must take some pains to verify your identity before issuing you a certificate.

The more lax a certificate authority is, the less useful a certificate issued by that certificate authority is. This public authentication service is crucial for thwarting Internet impostors. Without this service, there is no reliable way of knowing whether servers are actually operated by who they claim to be. Is www.well-known-retailer.com really operated by that well-known retailer? Is www.well-known-bank.com operated by the bank of the same name?

Purchasing a certificate server to issue certificates for this purpose would defeat the trust in the public key certificate model. Users would no longer enjoy the trust embodied in a reputable certificate authority that takes careful steps to verify an entity's identity before it issues a certificate.

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