Frequently Asked Questions - PNPKI

What is Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)?

The National Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), as its name implies, is an infrastructure that secures communications among individuals and government agencies. This way, the government’s delivery of services to citizens and businesses becomes safer, faster and more efficient.

Why is it called ‘public key’? Does it mean open and unrestricted?

No. The public key in PKI refers to the virtual ‘key’ that subscribers use to secure files sent over an otherwise unsecure ‘public’ network like the Internet. While it is called public, it can also work in a private network setting.

Why do I need a PKI?

As more and more people rely on the use of online applications over unsecure network like the Internet, the need to secure files and ensure their information integrity increases. This is where the PKI comes in. It addresses the issue of authenticity, confidentiality and integrity of information.

What is a digital certificate?

A digital certificate is a file issued by a Certificate Authority containing the user’s personal information just like an ordinary ID, only in this case, it is digital.

How can I have a digital certificate?

You can have a digital certificate by personally submitting an application to a Registration Authority (RA). The RA will then ask the Certificate Authority to generate a key or code and give it to you after processing.

Do I have to pay for it?

No. The digital certificate is free.

Where can I use a digital certificate?

You can use a digital certificate in your email and other documents. You can use it to encrypt a document and/or digitally sign it. Its use is to authenticate documents or put signatures on them or both.

How do I use a digital certificate?

People need a digital certificate to send you an encrypted email, for instance, that only you can open. They also use it to verify your digital signature on electronic documents. It is not the certificate that you need to protect but the private key that is associated with it. Hence, in cryptographic tokens, the private key is generated in the token and cannot be extracted from it. Soft tokens however store this private key as an ordinary electronic file. It is usually encrypted and the encryption is computationally infeasible to break. Nonetheless, this private key, if someone gets a copy of it and also the passphrase to use it can be used along with the digital certificate to fraudulently sign documents or open encrypted email.

Do I have an option not to use it?

Of course you do. It’s just that you will not be able to do the following: open encrypted files, access applications that require digital certificates and digitally sign documents for authenticity.

When can I use a digital certificate?

Whenever you feel like it. Or every time secure communication is needed, or a digital certificate is required for authenticity, confidentiality and integrity of data.

Who can avail of a digital certificate?

Any individual who is of age and possesses the necessary documents (as stated in the application form) may apply for a digital certificate.

Can I apply for other people’s certificate?

No since personal appearance is needed in the application process.

Where can I use a digital certificate?

A digital certificate can be used in online transactions, in documents digital signatures, in office applications and in softwares developed in-house.

How long can I use the digital certificate?

A digital certificate is valid up to two years. After that, you have to apply for a new one.

How do I renew and how long is the processs of renewal?

A digital certificate, techinically, cannot be ‘renewed.’ It means you have to apply for a new one everytime it expires and go through the application process again. All requirements will have to be satisfied and personal appearance is required.

Where can I store the digital certificate?

It can be stored in a USB secure token, an ordinary USB flash disk, a PC, a laptop or any mobile computer. The USB secure token is the safest because it has a built-in application that allows only a limited number of times for entering the PIN before it is blocked. A token can contain up to ten (10) certificates. Setting the token in the factory default will erase all data in its memory.

What types of certificates are issued?

You can avail of the following types of certificates: Authentication certificate – used in applications that require the user to login. It can be used to encrypt email. Signing certificate – used to digitally sign documents. SSL certificate – a certificate for machines, like web servers, application servers, routers, wifi devices, and others. (This is not yet available as of this writing.)

What if I lose my certificate?

The digital certificate is a public document. The moment you use it you can never lose it. However, if the private key is lost, compromised or the passphrase to use it is forgotten, then the certificate needs to be revoked and a new key can be generated as well as the digital certificate that will be associated with it.

What if the subscriber resigns, retires or exits from government service?

If it is a soft token, surrendering it is not necessary. The revocation can be easily done by the CA. However, if it is a cryptographic token and the company or CA owns it, then it needs to be surrendered. Individual owners may continue to use the certificates for transactions outside the concerned agency.

What are my responsibilities as digital certificate holder?

You have the responsibility to protect the certificate from misuse and abuse. You cannot, for example, lend it to other people or use it to forge documents or commit illegal acts with it. Unauthorized and illegal use are punishable according to the severity of the offense. A policy will be issued detailing the punishment for each administrative or criminal offense committed in the use of a digital certificate.

How long is the application process?

Upon completion of all the requirements by the applicant, a verification process will start. This process will take a minimum of one day and a maximum of two days, depending on the completion of requirements. After submission of documents (complete), the certificate is issued within a day or two. According to the policy (Section 4.2.3 of the RootCA-CP), issuance of the digital certificate should not exceed five calendar days after successful identity verification.

Is it possible to have multiple certificates?

A person may have two digital certificates: one for authentication and another for digital signing. He or she may get a third certificate, which is still to be offered, for PKI-enabled machines.

How big is a digital certificate?

A digital certificate takes up only 7kb to 10kb of computer memory.

What is a Registration Authority and its functions?

A Registration Authority (RA) accepts subscriber applications, verifies identities and issues digital certificates to the users. It also processes the revocation or suspension of the certificates.

How long is an RA authorized to operate?

Based on the accreditation guidelines, an RA has three years to operate. Its license, however, can be renewed for an indefinite number of times.

What are the benefits of being an RA?

A government agency that provides services through online transactions will benefit greatly from being a Registration Authority. It will save for the agency the costs of setting up its own infrastructure to process, authenticate and digitally sign documents. It will also help extend its services to the public and gain their trust.

Which agencies may be accredited as RAs?

Agencies providing Unified Multi-purpose ID (UMID) cards to their members are ideal for the task. The private sector, including banks, may also be accredited as RAs.

Who will conduct the training for RAs?

Training will be conducted by the ICT Office, but can also be outsourced to a training institute.

What are the hardware and software requirements and who will provide these?

This information along with all the other requirements for RA accreditation can be found on our RA accreditation checklist.

The RA applicants will be the ones who will need to provide these requirements.

The government agencies and instrumentalities performing the functions of RA are authorized to charge fees for services rendered. The costs of digital certificates issued directly by private Accredited CAs (ACAs) or through their respective RAs shall be market-determined, just and reasonable. Private RAs have the option to assume the costs of the certificates issued to subscribers depending on its contractual arrangements with the ACA.

Does the system have technical support?

Yes,the RA module is part of the whole PKI system being run by the ICT Office and technical support is also provided. For security, each RA officer will be issued a separate digital certificate to access the system. Scheduled and random audit will also be done. From a basic template that we will provide, the RA needs to developed its operations manual, business continuity plan, and disaster recovery plan. We also have an existing technical support from SecureMetric.

What is the role  of private institutions in PKI implementation?

A private company or institution can serve as a Registration Authority (RA) to receive applications for digital certificates, verify the credentials of applicants, and recommend the issuance of digital certificates. The RA may also receive requests for suspension or revocation of digital certificates.

What is the procedure for RA accreditation of a private organization?

The ICT Office will be coming out with an accreditation procedure for the private sector. Our existing procedure is for government agencies becoming RAs

Will it be implemented nationwide?

We are targeting a nationwide implementation to go with our Free WiFi project.

Here is the link to this project

What is the target date for this project?

We hope to get as many RAs onboard as soon as possible in line with the launch of the free public wifi in July of this year.

Why can’t I encrypt my emails?

Check first the compatibility of your operating system with your email provider. For example, Zimbra is not compatible with Ubuntu 12, 32 bits but compatible with Ubuntu 13 and 14, 64 bits.

What is the best browser to use when using PKI?

Firefox is recommended as it works well with Java, which is needed to run the digital certificates. Google Chrome, on the other hand, usually can’t recognize Java.

What is the best email provider to use when encrypting and signing emails?

It is recommended to use email providers, such as Thunderbird and Outlook, for your digital certificates. You can also use web-based email providers like Gmail and Yahoo, but configure your accounts first.

Can I encrypt or sign my emails using iGovPhil’s GovMail?

Yes. GovMail has been configured by the developers to recognize PNPKI with the use of SMIME Zimlet.