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Glossary of Terms

authentication

The process of reliably determining the identity of a communicating party. Identity can be proven by something you know (such as a password), something you have (such as a private key or token), or something intrinsic about you (such as a fingerprint).

CA (Certificate Authority)

A server, in a trusted organization, which issues digital certificates. The CA manages the issuance of new certificates and revokes certificates that are no longer valid for authentication. A CA may also delegate certificate issuance authority to one or more intermediate CAs creating a chain of trust. The highest level CA certificate is referred to as the trusted root.

digital certificate

An integral part of a PKI (Public Key Infrastructure). Digital certificates (also called X.509 certificates) are issued by a certificate authority (CA), which ensures the validity of the information in the certificate. Each certificate contains identifying information about the certificate owner, a copy of the certificate owner's public key (used for encrypting and decrypting messages and digital signatures), and a digital signature (generated by the CA based on the certificate contents). The digital signature is used by a recipient to verify that the certificate has not been tampered with and can be trusted.

encryption

Encryption is the process of scrambling data by use of a secret code or cipher so that it is unreadable except by authorized users. Encrypted data is far more secure than unencrypted data.

Java keystore

A Java keystore is used for storage and transportation of certificates and associated private keys. Use the Java keytool utility to manage keystore files.

PKCS

PKCS (Public Key Cryptography Standards) is a set of standards devised and published by RSA laboratories that enable compatibility among public key cryptography implementations. Different PKCS standards identify specifications for particular cryptographic uses. PKCS#12 is used for storage and transportation of certificates and associated private keys. Files in this format typically use a *.pfx or *.p12 extension.

X.509 certificate

See digital certificate.