Introducing the 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report     | Download the Report

Benefits and Risks of AI in PKI Management


In the world of security, the advancement of AI can feel like an arms race. Attackers use AI to conduct more sophisticated attacks, while defenders use AI to cut down on unnecessary tasks, catch incidents earlier, and respond faster. For teams managing Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), AI can be a boon.

If done strategically and thoroughly, AI’s integration into PKI systems can greatly increase the reliability and efficiency of your organization’s security posture.

In this article, we’ll explore industry trends and data from our 2024 PKI & Digital Trust Report to help you make sense of the threats and opportunities related to AI and PKI management.

Mistrust in the era of AI

As more organizations integrate AI-powered applications, the number of digital identities at work in the organization will rise. The continued development of this problem is not just a matter of scale, but also of security and management intricacy.

Growing complexity in machine identity management

46% of respondents in our report indicated that the burgeoning use of AI and gen-AI is directly driving the deployment of PKI solutions, keys, certificates, and other cryptographic secrets.

The rise in these digital credentials necessitates the use of machine identity management systems to handle:

  • Secure issuance of digital certificates
  • Effective management of certificate lifecycles
  • Rapid authentication processes to support an expanding network of devices

The increasing volume of digital certificates strains existing PKI infrastructures and puts operational burdens on systems administrators. More devices and the greater importance of their functions mean any disruption or
mismanagement can have severe consequences.

Securing AI-generated content

Forty-eight percent of organizations prioritize the management of AI-powered systems and gen-AI content. Therefore, the need to verify the integrity and authenticity of such content has become more pronounced.

Digital signatures play a major role in ensuring the trustworthiness of gen-AI content such as images, text, and videos. Initiatives like the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) are pivotal in this regard. They aim to mitigate the spread of misinformation by ensuring that digital content can be verified and traced back to its source. Such measures are essential for:

  • Maintaining the credibility of digital media
  • Preventing the manipulation of information
  • Protecting intellectual property rights
  • Fostering a secure and trustworthy digital environment

AI as a tool for cyber threats

The integration of AI opens new avenues for sophisticated attackers using AI to automate and scale their exploitation of vulnerabilities. These threats manifest in various forms, including:

  • AI-driven phishing attacks that are more convincing and harder to detect
  • Automated malware that can adapt and evolve to bypass security measures
  • Deepfake technologies that can impersonate individuals in fraudulent activities

Relying on manually managed PKI systems is increasingly untenable when AI can be used to exploit any oversight or delay the response. Additionally, outdated or poorly configured systems exacerbate the risk of breaches, longer downtimes, higher costs, and reputational damage.

The solution to this problem is more automated and tightly controlled PKI processes. AI-enhanced PKI solutions must not only manage identities more efficiently but also prevent security issues from becoming active threats.

By integrating AI into PKI management, organizations can leverage resources like predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms to enhance their security posture and pinpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. In some cases, AI can identify weaknesses and provide steps for remediation. This may position the digital infrastructure to act proactively against emerging threats.

Regardless of which side of the coin you look at, AI’s ability to facilitate or complicate digital security and advanced PKI management strategies are needed to ensure digital transformations enhance—not endanger—the integrity of your organization.

Enabling trust with PKI

Only 37% of organizations currently employ PKI to bolster AI and gen-AI content. This discrepancy underscores a broader issue: the majority of organizations are still discovering how to synchronize AI with comprehensive PKI management.

A gap in understanding is apparent because 91% of respondents recognize PKI as a necessary defense mechanism against AI-induced threats.

Enhancing security through AI-integrated PKI

Strategically integrating AI into PKI management—especially in certificate lifecycle management, cryptography, and certificate usage analytics—brings considerable benefits.

  • Certificate lifecycle management: AI streamlines the issuance, renewal, and revocation of certificates, reducing delays and errors from manual processing.
  • Cryptography operations: AI algorithms optimize cryptographic functions like key generation and encryption, making them more secure.
  • Certificate usage insights: Through data analytics, AI provides valuable insights into certificate utilization patterns, identifying potential security risks.

Integrating AI into PKI improves operational efficiency and significantly decreases human error—a major factor in security breaches. Most teams managing PKI are not PKI experts. AI could help them manage PKI more effectively and give them back hours each week.

Authenticated and secured machine identities

Integrating AI across business processes introduces new challenges in authenticating digital identities. 

Here are several ways a well-implemented AI-enhanced PKI system meets these demands:

  • Scalability: Modern PKI systems must be scalable enough to manage the growing number of digital identities without compromising performance or security.
  • Security: Enhanced security protocols, fortified by AI-driven threat detection and response mechanisms, are essential to protect against sophisticated cyber threats.
  • Adaptability: As digital ecosystems evolve, PKI frameworks must adapt quickly to changes, incorporating new technologies and standards without disruption.

Adopting PKI

Despite the clear benefits, the low adoption rate of PKI for AI applications suggests significant barriers. PKI is a highly technical and complex niche, and expertise in both PKI and AI is hard to come by. 

Fostering partnerships with PKI and AI technology providers can facilitate smoother integration—enabling organizations to leverage tailored security solutions.

Strategic implications

As AI continues to advance, its integration into PKI systems will likely become more prevalent, driven by the need to manage an expanding array of digital identities.

Enabling trust through PKI is not just about leveraging new tech but also about embracing an evolving approach to digital security. By strategically integrating AI with PKI systems, you’ll enhance your ability to protect digital assets, ensure compliance with evolving regulations, and build a resilient infrastructure.

As a first step, Keyfactor can help you explore the benefits of a modern PKI solution for your organization. Connect with our team and schedule a demo to learn more.