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Advantages of Using PKI To IoT Devices

by Rebecca Daniel

The Internet of Things (IoT) might sound like old news, but that’s because this futuristic technology is already everywhere around us. Smart, connected devices that talk to us, each other, and the internet have entered our households and cars, and they’re staying for the foreseeable future. 

If you think building IoT is a technological feat, consider the following. 

By definition, IoT devices share the same network. Intelligent home systems, for example, sometimes include everything from a smoothie blender to AC. Also, there’s a security alarm connected to the same network as your smart TV. The problem is that most smart TVs are surprisingly easy to hack. 

These security issues pose an even greater risk in IoT-reliant sectors like banking or healthcare. To add a protective layer around entire networks, IoT manufacturers use PKIs. 

Here’s what they are, with a unique overview of their advantages. 

What is a PKI? 

We can talk about an in-house PKI solution or a managed PKI. 

In both cases, PKI is short for Public Key Infrastructure, a complex and extensive ecosystem of security measures designed to protect every IoT device connected to a particular network. A PKI is an encryption key, just like a basic SSL certificate – only indefinitely more intricate.  

PKI relies on digital certificates to verify the identity of every device in the ecosystem. 

Embedded in every device identity are permissions and limitations for accessing services. 

It’s needless to say that every PKI is a technological feat in its own right. Building a PKI is a logistical nightmare; it involves many skilled experts, expensive equipment, and extensive facilities. Remember that PKIs must be maintained too, and for every device’s lifecycle. 

All this is to say that building an in-house PKI takes an enormous amount of money and time, so most IoT manufacturers decide to seek help and obtain a managed PKI service. The following are just a few of the frequently cited advantages of choosing a managed PKI solution:  

Managed PKI solutions are infinitely faster.  

Providers of dedicated PKI services already have everything set up. 

Managed PKI solutions come from companies with tested and perfected know-how, technology, and processes. They have experience on their side, ensuring better quality, but equally important is their infrastructure, which allows them to start adding PKIs to your devices right away. 

Managed solutions help you market faster, which might be the only decisive factor you need.  

Managed PKIs already have the equipment. 

So-called hardware security modules, or HSMs, are used to build and maintain Public Key Infrastructures. These computing devices are essential in the management of all digital keys since they are the ones that perform various encryption and decryption functions.  

HSMs are quite an investment, but that’s not the only problem.  

Even if you can spare the capital, you’ll still need personnel to operate and maintain HSMs. 

Managed PKIs are ready for continual tracking. 

After they’re issued, digital certificates that entire PKIs are based on must be occasionally renewed and continuously tracked throughout the lifecycle of every IoT device. The monitoring alone is a crucial yet highly technical process. That’s the first line of defence against hackers.  

Providers of managed PKIs are already experienced in identifying compromised certificates.  

It takes a long time to build a Certificate Revocation List, which they already have.  

Managed PKI operations are heavily secured. 

Both the HSMs devices and the facilities where they are stored must have a protection system. Like IoT devices themselves, this connected technology can be hacked, too, while facilities can be breached physically. In-house PKI security is yet another challenge to overcome. 

A dedicated PKI service provider’s entire business depends on regular security checks.  

If you choose managed PKI, you can ensure that your keys are securely locked.  

Managed PKI operations are properly certified. 

It’s easy to guess that the holders of digital certificates for PKIs must also undergo a certification process. Not everyone can build and maintain Public Key Infrastructures, and not everyone should. At this security level, everything must be flawless, from people to technology to processes.  

It’s also easy to guess that you can’t obtain a certificate for this overnight.  

Of course, a company that provides managed PKIs already has the necessary validation.  

Managed PKIs offer specialized provisioning. 

Depending on the complexity of an IoT device, a managed PKI service offers two types of provisioning – cloud-based and factory. The difference should be obvious. While cloud-based provisioning manages device identities remotely, factory provisioning uses physical security keys, so you would have to specialize in both provisioning types.  

Otherwise, you’d limit your manufacturing process to less competitive devices. 


As if the Internet of Things wasn’t already complex enough, now we have Public Key Infrastructures to worry about. Nevertheless, IoT security is the top priority for all tech leaders, both now and in the future, which means that PKIs will become even more important in years to come.  

Managed PKI will evolve too, and no in-house solution will be able to compete.  



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