For authentication purposes, iSHARE requires adhering and Certified Parties to acquire an X.509 certificate which is distributed by a trusted root under certain PKIs (Public Key Infrastructure). For interoperability on a European scale, all trusted roots under the eIDAS regulation will be trusted within iSHARE. Furthermore, iSHARE accepts certificates issued under PKIoverheid.
A PKI is a system for distribution and management of digital keys and certificates, which enables secure authentication of parties interacting with each other.
Generally, three different methods exist for creating trust within PKI's. These are through 'Certificate Authorities', 'Web of Trust' and 'Simple PKI'. Within iSHARE the 'Certificate Authority' approach is used, and as such the other methods will not be discussed.
A PKI can be considered as a chain of certificates. At the beginning of the chain is the root 'Certificate Authority' (CA), a public trusted party which is allowed to digitally sign their own certificates (SSC, self-signed certificate). This 'Root CA' distributes certificates and encryption keys to organisations. The certificate is signed by the 'root CA' as proof that the owner of the certificate is trusted. These organisations can start distributing certificates as well, if allowed by their root. They become CA's, and as such sign the certificates that they distribute. Repeating these steps, a chain of certificates is created, with each certificate signed by the CA who distributed the certificate.
Parties need to trust a certificate for authentication purposes. Instead of trusting individual certificates of organisations, root certificates can be trusted. By trusting a root, all certificates that have the root within their PKI chains are automatically trusted. Most large root CA's are automatically trusted within web browsers, enabling computers to safely interact with most web servers.
Trusted roots and eIDAS
iSHARE supports digital certificates that are recognized under eIDAS as Qualified Certificates. The eIDAS regulation aims to provide secure and seamless electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities throughout the entire European Union. A main part of this regulation is that each EU country is required to establish and maintain 'trusted lists', among which trusted root information is found. Each EU country is required to implement these trusted lists in their own countries. Therefore, iSHARE aims to make use of these trusted lists as trust roots within iSHARE to ensure secure and seamless interaction throughout the entire EU.