PKI is key to secure e-commerce

Today's Internet economy depends heavily on the security and validity of information. Commerce cannot happen if customers don't trust the online vendor. Credit card numbers can't be transmitted without encryption, and secure e-mail depends heavily on PKI (public key infrastructure).

In each case, vendors of these technologies rose to the occasion, making sure each was up to the ever-increasing challenges. We chose the combined capability of digital certificates, encryption, and PKI as a Technology of the Year award winner.

It's important to note that these three technologies cannot stand on their own. Digital certificates depend on encryption, encrypted e-mail relies heavily on PKI, and PKI in turn depends on digital certificates and encryption to be useful.

These technologies are helping companies to build their businesses for the Web while ensuring that vital customer and corporate information is kept confidential. Digital certificates are important for many different businesses. They help customers and businesses to verify the source of information and files and to determine the authenticity of software applications and other products.

Without digital certificates, Internet software distribution would not have matured as it did in 2000; it would have been a much less attractive option for many businesses. And without an easy way to verify the source of bug fixes and virus signature updates, customers could not trust the information that your business provides.

Encryption has also been a key technology in 2000. All facets of networking and computing depend on the security of information. VPNs, electronic commerce, Web-based access to sensitive information, and even e-mail require the ability to hide data from prying eyes as it passes over public networks or unsecured servers.

The maturation of these three technologies during 2000 helped to drive the Internet economy forward and will continue to do so.

Businesses have reaped significant cost savings by using these technologies, which allow the secure and verifiable exchange of products and information. But even more impressively, these technologies have enabled true Internet commerce and the business use of the Web. Without digital certificates, encryption, and PKI, business on the Web as we know it would not be possible. And Web-based businesses worldwide would not be able to operate, or at the least would be heavily restricted, without the ability to verify information, encrypt it, and share encryption keys with employees, customers, and business partners.

In 2001 we will see an even wider adoption of digital certificate technology by Internet businesses. As more companies embrace the technology and customers become more familiar with its benefits, the use of digital certificates will grow. Encryption will continue to be an enabling technology for most, if not all, business-related technology. And the PKI market will help those businesses share and disseminate information at a lower cost and to a wider market. There is still room for improvement in all of these areas, which will help Internet business to grow in new directions in the future.

You can bet our ever-increasing processing power will mean servers can handle increasingly high volumes of encryption, PKI, and certificates in the coming year.

Although it may not be as revolutionary as XML, this trio was largely responsible for the wide-scale adoption of e-commerce last year and thus richly deserves recognition.

Technology of the year

Digital certificates, encryption, and public key infrastructure technologies have made a huge impact on how businesses operate in 2000. The growth of these technologies will help this trend to continue well beyond 2001.

This story, "PKI is key to secure e-commerce " was originally published by InfoWorld.


Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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