Key life cycle issues

Key management is simplest when all cryptographic keys are fixed for all time. Cryptoperiods necessitate the update of keys. This imposes additional requirements, e.g., on certification authorities which maintain and update user keys. The set of stages through which a key progresses during its existence, referred to as the life cycle of keys, is discussed in this section.

Lifetime protection requirements

Controls are necessary to protect keys both during usage (cf. §13.5.2) and storage. Regarding long-term storage of keys, the duration of protection required depends on the cryptographic function (e.g., encryption, signature, data origin authentication/integrity) and the time-sensitivity of the data in question.

Security impact of dependencies in key updates

Keying material should be updated prior to cryptoperiod expiry (see Definition 13.10). Update involves use of existing keying material to establish new keying material, through appropriate key establishment protocols (Chapter 12) and key layering (§13.3.1).

To Umit exposure in case of compromise of either long term secret keys or past session keys, dependencies among keying material should be avoided. For example, securing a new session key by encrypting it under the old session key is not recommended (since compromise of the old key compromises the new). See §12.2.3 regarding perfect forward secrecy and known-key attacks.

Lifetime storage requirements for various types of keys

Stored secret keys must be secured so as to provide both confidentiality and authenticity. Stored public keys must be secured such that their authenticity is verifiable. Confidentiality and authenticity guarantees, respectively countering the threats of disclosure and modification, may be provided by cryptographic techniques, procedural (trust-based) techniques, or physical protection (tamper-resistant hardware).

Signature verification pubUc keys may require archival to allow signature verification at future points in time, including possibly after the private key ceases to be used. Some applications may require that signature private keys neither be backed up nor archived: such keys revealed to any party other than the owner potentially invalidates the property of nonrepudiation. Note here that loss (without compromise) of a signature private key may be addressed by creation of a new key, and is non-critical as such a private key is not needed for access to past transactions; similarly, public encryption keys need not be archived. On the other hand, decryption private keys may require archival, since past information encrypted thereunder might otherwise be lost.

Keys used for entity authentication need not be backed up or archived. All secret keys used for encryption or data origin authentication should remain secret for as long as the data sectrred thereunder requires continued protection (the protection lifetime), and backup or archival is required to prevent loss of this data or verifiability should the key be lost.

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