What are the Components of a Digital Certificate?

Digital Certificate

A digital certificate has emerged as a formidable opponent against fake certificates. Since they’re tamper-proof, secure, and incredibly simple to issue and maintain, more and more organizations are adopting them by the day.

But only a chosen few understand digital certificates in earnest. Worse, a mere fraction of these individuals are familiar with the components of a digital certificate. Don’t worry. We’re here to decode the components of a digital certificate.

What are Digital Certificates?

A digital certificate is akin to a regular document digital with the exception that these documents are hosted on the blockchain. Besides this key difference, such documents also follow the guidelines laid down in the Verifiable Credentials Data Model 1.0 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Simply put, a digital certificate is tamper-proof, can be verified by machines, and uses privacy-enhancing technologies, like decentralized identifiers (DIDs). This makes them immutable, secure, and impenetrable. The highlight is these certificates offer a holder utmost control and helps them shield their personally identifiable information and share only the required data.

But they contain certain details to make it easier for document receivers to verify the authenticity of the document digitals and authenticate the information presented in the document.

What are the Components of a Digital Certificate?

Coming to the components of a digital certificate, here are most common ones:

  • The document owner’s public key: The receiver uses the public key to decrypt the encrypted data in the certificate. It also helps verify the authenticity of the document and ensure it hasn’t been tampered with.
  • The document owner’s name: A digital certificate doesn’t just contain the name of the issuer. It contains the distinguished name (DN). The DN helps identify the certificate owner across the internet. But how is that possible? Well, the DN has fields, including common name, email address, organization, organizational unit, and country.
  • The distinguished name of the certificate authority (CA): The certificate doesn’t just contain pertinent information about the holder. It also contains the DN of the relevant certificate authority.
  • The date from which the certificate is valid: This shows when the certificate was issued and for how long. Mostly, digital certificates are issued for one, two, or five years, so this helps gauge the certificate’s validity.
  • The expiry date of the certificate: This shows the date when the certificate will expire and be longer valid.
  • The version number of the certificate data format as defined in X.509: This data helps understand if the certificate conforms to the current version of the X.509 standard: Version 3.
  • A unique serial number: The serial number is a unique identifier assigned by the CA which issued the certificate. The serial number is unique. This means that no two digital certificates will have the same serial number.

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