Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


10:00 AM
Connect Directly

Aerospace, Feds Activate PKI Bridge

The US Federal government and the aerospace industry are giving new life to PKI, building a bridge certificate authority to ease federated identity management

A new, commercially managed bridge based on public-key infrastructure went live last week, providing a secure, encrypted link between major aerospace companies and U.S. Federal government agencies using a single set of identity credentials.

The Certipath PKI bridge, one of the largest federated identity projects to date in the U.S., will link more than a million aerospace employees with each other and with more than 500,000 colleagues at major government agencies. The bridge will serve as a cross-certified PKI between the Federal Bridge Certificate Authority (FBCA) and the aerospace industry, creating a path for trusted communication and transactions among the participants.

CertiPath is a joint venture of ARINC, Exostar, and SITA -- three of the biggest service providers in the aerospace and defense industry. Its six charter members -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and EADS/Airbus -- have more than a million employees and 20,000 suppliers among them. Boeing was the first commercial company to cross-certify.

"Certipath provides assurance that companies can be their own [certificate] authorities by providing the process, technology, and governance of their identity management infrastructure," says Jeff Nigriny, CTO and president of Certipath.

Certificate authorities issue certificates to end-users and servers based on policies defined by the Certificate Policy (CP), which defines how a certificate can be used, and a Certification Practice Statement (CPS), which defines how the CA and digital certificates it issues are managed. A CA, its certificates, and the users and applications make up a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

Within a single PKI, users and applications can use certificates to communicate, relying on a commonly trusted CA. Before the CertiPath bridge, each employee, on each project required distinct and unique identity certification. Every time companies collaborated on a new project, the layers of required certification multiplied. When companies wanted to extend trust to external entities, such as a supply chain, the two PKIs had to be cross certified -- a complex process that requires review of the CP and CPS, mapping business requirements, company audits, and interoperability testing.

Cross certification is a time-consuming process and doesn't scale well. If a hundred companies want to use a PKI to conduct e-business, each company would have to complete a hundred cross-certifications. But with a bridge such as Certipath's or the FBCA, each company cross-certifies with the bridge, and the bridge defines the minimum policies and procedures required to join.

"We don't want to cross-certify with the world. It's too costly," says Peter Alterman, chair of the Federal PKI Policy Authority, which sets policy for the FBCA. "With two bridges, trust can transit from government agencies to private industry.

"Why do it? Savings in time and resources," reasons Alterman. "It's important for the Department of Defense or the Federal Aviation Administration to do business with Boeing. Those agencies want to know that people who are signing and authenticating transactions are Boeing people. In the old days, an agency user ID would be issued to external people, and it would cost big money to manage that account. The bridge CA really drives federation."

The bridge also provides better access control, Nigriny says. "A user name is not the most interesting attribute when it comes to access control," he says. "What a company needs to know are the citizenship, country, location, access level, and other attributes that are used to grant or deny access to sensitive information."

Will federal agencies use the new bridge? Alterman notes that they are already moving in that direction, because of emerging requirements mandated by the Department of Homeland Security (HSPD-12). (See Deadline Could Spur Smart Cards.) "Everything to enable PKI has to be done for HSPD-12 anyway. As soon as strong authentication became a security requirement, the ROI went out the door. As long as the infrastructure is built, then agencies will use it. The costs to PKI-enable applications are incremental."

— Mike Fratto, Editor at Large, Dark Reading

Organizations mentioned in this story

  • Boeing
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Certipath, LLC
  • Department of Defense
  • Federal Bridge Certification Authority
  • General Services Administration

    Mike Fratto is a principal analyst at Current Analysis, covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. Prior to that, Mike was with UBM Tech for 15 years, and served as editor of Network Computing. He was also lead analyst for InformationWeek Analytics ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
    Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
    Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
    Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
    Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
    Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Cartoon Contest
    Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
    Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    Building the SOC of the Future
    Building the SOC of the Future
    Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
    An issue was discovered in through SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. salt.modules.cmdmod can log credentials to the info or error log level.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
    In SaltStack Salt before 3002.5, eauth tokens can be used once after expiration. (They might be used to run command against the salt master or minions.)
    PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
    An issue was discovered in SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. Sending crafted web requests to the Salt API can result in salt.utils.thin.gen_thin() command injection because of different handling of single versus double quotes. This is related to salt/utils/thin.py.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
    i-doit before 1.16.0 is affected by Stored Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) issues that could allow remote authenticated attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via C__MONITORING__CONFIG__TITLE, SM2__C__MONITORING__CONFIG__TITLE, C__MONITORING__CONFIG__PATH, SM2__C__MONITORING__CONFIG__PATH, C__M...
    PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
    An issue was discovered in SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. The salt-api's ssh client is vulnerable to a shell injection by including ProxyCommand in an argument, or via ssh_options provided in an API request.