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3.8.9 What is PKCS?

  PKCS (Public-Key Cryptography Standards) is a set of standards for implementation of public-key cryptography. It has been issued by RSA Data Security, Inc. in cooperation with a computer industry consortium, including Apple, Microsoft, DEC, Lotus, Sun and MIT. PKCS has been cited by the OIW (OSI Implementors' Workshop) as a method for implementation of OSI standards. PKCS is compatible with PEM (see Question 3.8.7) but extends beyond PEM. For example, where PEM can only handle ASCII data, PKCS is designed for binary data as well. PKCS is also compatible with the CCITT X.509 standard.

PKCS includes both algorithm-specific and algorithm-independent implementation standards. Specific algorithms supported include RSA, DES, and Diffie-Hellman key exchange. It also defines algorithm-independent syntax for digital signatures, digital envelopes (for encryption), and certificates; this enables someone implementing any cryptographic algorithm whatsoever to conform to a standard syntax and thus preserve interoperability. Documents detailing the PKCS standards can be obtained by sending e-mail to or by anonymous ftp to .

Denis Arnaud