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Enterprise certification authorities

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Enterprise certification authorities

The Enterprise Administrator can install Certificate Services to create an enterprise certification authority (CA). Enterprise CAs can issue certificates for purposes such as digital signatures, secure e-mail using S/MIME (Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions), authentication to a secure Web server using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS), and logging on to a Windows Server 2003 family domain using a smart card.

An enterprise CA has the following features:

  • An enterprise CA requires the Active Directory directory service.

  • When you install an enterprise root CA, it uses Group Policy to propagate its certificate to the Trusted Root Certification Authorities certificate store for all users and computers in the domain. You must be a Domain Administrator or be an administrator with write access to Active Directory to install an enterprise root CA.

  • Certificates can be issued for logging on to a Windows Server 2003 family domain using smart cards.

  • The enterprise exit module publishes user certificates and the certificate revocation list (CRL) to Active Directory. In order to publish certificates to Active Directory, the server that the CA is installed on must be a member of the Certificate Publishers group. This is automatic for the domain the server is in, but the server must be delegated the proper security permissions to publish certificates in other domains. For more information about the exit module, see Policy and exit modules.

An enterprise CA uses certificate types, which are based on a certificate template. The following functionality is possible when you use certificate templates:

  • Enterprise CAs enforce credential checks on users during certificate enrollment. Each certificate template has a security permission set in Active Directory that determines whether the certificate requester is authorized to receive the type of certificate they have requested.

  • The certificate subject name can be generated automatically from the information in Active Directory or supplied explicitly by the requestor.

  • The policy module adds a predefined list of certificate extensions to the issued certificate. The extensions are defined by the certificate template. This reduces the amount of information a certificate requester has to provide about the certificate and its intended use.

For more information, compare Stand-alone certification authorities. For more information about certificate templates, see Requesting certificate templates. For general information about CAs, see Certification Authorities.

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