Role of PKI in Trust Service Providers

Trust Service Providers ( TSP )

The history of Trust Service Providers (TSPs) in Europe is closely tied to the development and evolution of digital signatures, electronic identification, and secure electronic transactions. The European Union adopted the Directive on Electronic Signatures in December 1999 to establish a legal framework for electronic signatures within member states. This directive aimed to facilitate the use of electronic signatures, encouraging trust and interoperability. The Electronic Identification and Trust Services Regulation (eIDAS) was adopted in 2014 to replace the 1999/93/EC Directive. eIDAS aimed to create a harmonized legal framework for electronic identification, electronic signatures, and trust services across the EU. Through out the history PKI has provided key components to establish the digital trust.

Let’s uncover how Trusted Service Providers (TSP) harness the power of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) solutions to ensure eIDAS compliance, paving the way for a trusted digital ecosystem. In the context of the European Union (EU), a Trust Service Provider (TSP) refers to an entity that provides electronic trust services, ensuring the security, integrity, and reliability of digital transactions and communications. These service providers offer various electronic trust services such as:

  • Electronic signatures,
  • Electronic seals,
  • Time-stamping services,
  • Electronic delivery services,
  • Website authentication, and more.

Their primary objective is to guarantee the authenticity, integrity, and confidentiality of electronic transactions, contributing to a trusted and legally recognized digital environment.

PKI is the heart of a TSP

At the heart of TSPs’ offerings lies PKI – a robust framework for managing digital certificates and encryption keys. PKI enables the issuance, management, and verification of digital identities and signatures, essential for eIDAS compliance. PKI stands for Public Key Infrastructure, which is a comprehensive system of policies, procedures, hardware, software, and people designed to manage digital certificates and public-private key pairs, enabling secure communication and transactions over unsecured networks, such as the internet. Here are its key components:

Digital Certificates

These are electronic credentials that validate the identities of entities (individuals, organizations, servers, etc.) involved in online transactions. They contain information such as the entity's public key and identity details, issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).

Certificate Authorities (CAs)

They are entities responsible for issuing, managing, and revoking digital certificates. CAs verify the identities of certificate applicants and vouch for their authenticity, ensuring trust in the digital ecosystem.

Public and Private Keys

Asymmetric cryptographic keys used for encryption and decryption. Public keys are shared openly, used for encryption or verifying signatures, while private keys are kept secret and used for decryption or creating digital signatures. Normally used keys are either RSA or ECDSA.

Registration Authorities

Entities that verify and authenticate users before they receive digital certificates from the CA. RAs work in conjunction with CAs to validate the identities of certificate applicants. RA can be an extended arm of CA and allows 3rd party organizations to request for certificates while RA Admins vet these requests.

CRL & OCSP Protocols

Mechanisms used to check the validity of digital certificates. CRLs list revoked certificates, while OCSP provides real-time certificate status.

Key Management Systems

Systems responsible for generating, storing, and managing cryptographic keys securely. These are normally HSMs hosted either on-premise or in the cloud.

PKI establishes a framework for secure communication, ensuring data integrity, authentication of users and entities, non-repudiation, and confidentiality in digital transactions. It is widely used in various applications, including secure email communication, digital signatures, e-commerce, online banking, and secure access to systems and networks. To learn more about PKI, Digital Signatures & timestamps, check out the following articles:

Standardization of TSP

Under the eIDAS Regulation (Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services), TSPs play a pivotal role in ensuring compliance with the established standards for electronic identification and trust services. They adhere to stringent requirements and technical specifications outlined by eIDAS to offer services that hold:

  • Legal validity
  • Recognition across EU member states
  • Enabling secure and seamless cross-border transactions while fostering digital trust.

Services of a Trust Service Providers

Citizens interact with Trust Service Providers (TSPs) in various ways, primarily relying on electronic trust services provided by these entities to secure their digital transactions and communications. Here’s how citizens commonly interact with TSPs and the business functions utilized:

Digital Signatures & Doc Signing

Citizens use TSP-provided digital signatures to sign electronic documents securely. Whether it's signing contracts, agreements, or official paperwork, individuals rely on TSPs to ensure the authenticity, integrity, and legal validity of their digital signatures.

Authentication & Identity Verification

TSPs offer authentication services that citizens utilize to verify their identities online. This is particularly important for accessing secure portals, e-government services, or financial transactions, where strong authentication is necessary to confirm identity.

Timestamping Services

Citizens use TSP-provided digital signatures to sign electronic documents securely. Whether it's signing contracts, agreements, or official paperwork, individuals rely on TSPs to ensure the authenticity, integrity, and legal validity of their digital signatures.

Website Security & SSL

When citizens access websites, involving sensitive transactions like online banking or shopping, they rely on TSP-issued SSL/TLS certificates to ensure secure connections. This helps safeguard against data breaches ensuring encrypted communication between the user's browser & the website.

Encrypted Communication

TSPs provide encryption services that citizens use for secure communications, such as encrypted emails or messaging. This protects sensitive information from unauthorized access during transmission.

Electronic Delivery

TSPs facilitate secure electronic delivery services that citizens might utilize for transmitting sensitive documents or messages securely over the internet.

eIDAS Compliance through PKI Solutions

  1. Digital Signatures and Seals: PKI facilitates the creation of advanced and qualified electronic signatures, ensuring they meet eIDAS requirements. These signatures guarantee authenticity, integrity, and non-repudiation of signed documents.
  2. Authentication Certificates: TSPs issue electronic certificates for website authentication, using PKI to validate the identity of websites. These certificates assure users of secure online interactions.
  3. Timestamps and Preservation of Evidence: PKI-backed timestamps certify the exact time of an event, crucial for legal evidence. TSPs utilize PKI to generate and manage trusted timestamps, adhering to eIDAS standards.
  4. Secure Communication: PKI enables encryption, safeguarding data in transit. TSPs leverage PKI-based encryption solutions to ensure confidentiality and integrity in digital communications.

Codegic PKI based solutions for TSP & QTSPs

Trusted Service Providers can integrate Codegic scalable & high trust PKI solutions to run their TSPs or QTSPs. These include:

Khatim PKI Server

Setup you own CA and OCSP Servers.

Khatim Sign Server

Setup your on Signing Server supporting Basic and Advanced Digital Signatures.

Khatim Doc

Setup your own client facing document signing solution

By leveraging Codegic PKI solutions, TSPs bolster digital trust, enabling businesses and individuals to navigate the digital realm with confidence. eIDAS-compliant services offered by TSPs become the bedrock of secure and legally recognized digital interactions.

To summarize:

  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) serves as the foundational framework
  • Underpins the operations and credibility of Trust Service Providers (TSPs) and Qualified Trust Service Providers (QTSPs).
  • Without PKI, the authentication, encryption, and digital signature mechanisms that form the backbone of trust services would not be feasible.
  • It establishes the necessary trust and reliability that enable TSPs and QTSPs to offer secure and legally recognized electronic trust services within the European Union and beyond.