Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

This provides the basis for electronic signatures: Security system for issuing, distributing
and verifying digital certificates

The Public Key Infrastructure at a glance

The Public Key Infrastructure at a glance

The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a technical facility for producing and issuing digital certificates. It also provides up-to-date information on the certificate status so that the certificate can be revoked if necessary (for example if the signature card is lost).

PKIs are operated by (accredited) certification service providers and trust centres. In Germany, these are overseen by the Federal Network agency (BNA).

The entire PKI system is used to verify the authenticity of the digital certificate holder.

It provides the basis for generating qualified electronic signatures as the digital equivalent to conventional handwritten signatures.


In order to be able to use qualified electronic signatures, the prospective certificate holder must first apply for a signature card, which may be an individual or multsign card depending on the requirements.

Once the applicant’s identity has been verified, the applicant receives the card with the signature key pair along with the qualified certificate (user certificate). Using the smart card reader and the signature software, it is now possible to use the electronic signature to reliably protect documents.

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