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What Is a Key Distribution Center?

By Jean Marie Asta
Updated May 16, 2024
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Domain services that use directories for holding account databases and global catalogs are called key distribution centers. In addition to holding these databases and catalogs, a key distribution center uses them to refer to the key distribution centers of other domains. The idea of the key distribution center is based on cryptography and is used in computer network security. The cryptography used in these centers is a system of secret codes that reduces the risk of exchanging keys, which are a form of information that is encrypted and controls an algorithm’s operation. Oftentimes, this kind of center operates within a system that allows a limited amount of users access or allows users access within limited times.

A key distribution center operates using Kerberos™, which is a protocol for network authentication. These centers ensure secure methods of authentication when requests are made for a computer network’s services. Generally, the distribution center operates as follows: a user requests access to particular services within a computer network, and the center uses encrypted techniques to authenticate that the user making the request is who he claims to be. The first request is sent to the server, which sends a notice for the user to authenticate himself. Upon completing this request, the request is then sent to a server for ticket granting.

Additionally, the key distribution center checks that the user has permission to access to the service that is requested. The server that grants permission, or tickets, sends a reply back to the user requesting permission codes. In the case of a successful access request, the user is granted permission from the distribution center, which is issued by the server’s key in order to allow the user access. The user then uses the permission he is granted and sends a request to a certain application server for the ability to gain access to a particular service. Once this is completed, the server sends a reply back to the user, identifying itself and informing the user that it is the specific server he requested.

The benefit of using a key distribution center is that it can exhibit scalability, the ability of the system to handle increasing amounts of working operations in a smooth fashion and the capability for that system to grow and accommodate its growth. It is not, however, a perfect system and is subject to failure in certain conditions. The system, though, is designed to have minimal failure with success rates up to 99.999%.

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