1.5. Key Management

Before a certificate can be issued, the public key it contains and the corresponding private key must be generated. Sometimes it may be useful to issue a single person one certificate and key pair for signing operations and another certificate and key pair for encryption operations. Separate signing and encryption certificates keep the private signing key only on the local machine, providing maximum nonrepudiation. This also aids in backing up the private encryption key in some central location where it can be retrieved in case the user loses the original key or leaves the company.
Keys can be generated by client software or generated centrally by the CA and distributed to users through an LDAP directory. There are costs associated with either method. Local key generation provides maximum nonrepudiation but may involve more participation by the user in the issuing process. Flexible key management capabilities are essential for most organizations.
Key recovery , or the ability to retrieve backups of encryption keys under carefully defined conditions, can be a crucial part of certificate management, depending on how an organization uses certificates. In some PKI setups, several authorized personnel must agree before an encryption key can be recovered to ensure that the key is only recovered to the legitimate owner in authorized circumstance. It can be necessary to recover a key when information is encrypted and can only be decrypted by the lost key.