January 20, 2020
It is an entity that issues digital certificates. A digital certificate certifies the ownership of a public key by the named subject of the certificate. This allows others (relying parties) to rely upon signatures or on assertions made about the private key that corresponds to the certified public key. A CA acts as a trusted third-party trusted both by the subject (owner) of the certificate and by the party relying upon the certificate. Trusted certificates can be used to create secure connections to a server via the Internet. A certificate is essential in order to circumvent a malicious party which happens to be on the route to a target server which acts as if it were the target. The client uses the CA certificate to authenticate the CA signature on the server certificate, as part of the authorizations before launching a secure connection. The clients of a CA are server supervisors who call for a certificate that their servers will bestow to users. Commercial CAs charge money to issue certificates, and their customers anticipate the CA’s certificate to be contained within the majority of web browsers, so that safe connections to the certified servers work efficiently out-of-the-box. The quantity of internet browsers, other devices and applications which trust a particular certificate authority is referred to as ubiquity. Mozilla, which is a non-profit business, issues several commercial CA certificates with its products. While Mozilla developed their own policy, the CA/Browser Forum developed similar guidelines for CA trust. A single CA certificate may be shared among multiple CAs or their resellers. A root CA certificate may be the base to issue multiple intermediate CA certificates with varying validation requirements.
In addition to commercial CAs, some non-profits issue digital certificates to the public without charge; notable examples are CAcert and Let’s Encrypt.
Large organizations or government bodies may have their own PKIs (public key infrastructure), each containing their own CAs. Any site using self-signed certificates acts as its own CA.
Browsers and other clients of sorts characteristically allow users to add or do away with CA certificates at will. While server certificates regularly last for a relatively short period, CA certificates are further extended, so, for repeatedly visited servers, it is less error-prone importing and trusting the CA issued, rather than confirm a security exemption each time the server’s certificate is renewed.
Less often, trustworthy certificates are used for encrypting or signing messages. However, encryption entails the receiver’s public key and, since authors and receivers of encrypted messages, apparently, know one another, the usefulness of a trusted third party remains confined to the signature verification of messages sent to public mailing lists.