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digital certificate
Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2005 

An attachment to an electronic message used for security purposes. The most common use of a digital certificate is to verify that a user sending a message is who he or she claims to be, and to provide the receiver with the means to encode a reply.

An individual wishing to send an encrypted message applies for a digital certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). The CA issues an encrypted digital certificate containing the applicant's public key and a variety of other identification information. The CA makes its own public key readily available through print publicity or perhaps on the Internet.

The recipient of an encrypted message uses the CA's public key to decode the digital certificate attached to the message, verifies it as issued by the CA and then obtains the sender's public key and identification information held within the certificate. With this information, the recipient can send an encrypted reply.

The most widely used standard for digital certificates is X.509.

Also see SSL: Your Key to E-commerce Security in Webopedia's "Did You Know...?" section.

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For internet.com pages about digital certificate . Also check out the following links!

Related Links

DRM Watch 
Analysis of digital rights management technology.

CAcert.org
A community non-profit Certificate Authority.

In Certificates We Trust
Information Week article (March 1998) on the use of digital certificate software to speed transactions by moving them online.

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related categories

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Encryption

Security

related terms

attachment

certification authority

encryption

PEAP

public-key encryption

SASL

SSL

X.509


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