Institutional Framework

Trust Management Framework
Trust Management Infrastructure

The following diagram provides an overview of the Institutional Framework, the Trust Management Framework and the Trust Management Infrastructure that are described herein (read more).

Institutional Framework (IF):

WISeKey has developed a novel institutional and trust management framework that enables the Entity using it to convey trust through the segregation of ownership of components of the technological infrastructure, intellectual property rights, and policy creation authority among entities that are, by law, structured differently and in a manner that reinforces the management of trust. The institutional framework is composed of the following entities:

  • Foundation: a legal entity in the form of a foundation as legally structured in Switzerland or its functional equivalent in other jurisdictions or internationally (herein the “Foundation”);
  • Operator: A separate legal entity contractually bound to pursue the objectives of the Foundation (herein the “Operator”);
  • Auditor: The independent auditor directly or indirectly designated by the Foundation;
  • Supervisory Authority: The supervisory authority of the Foundation (in Switzerland this is the Swiss Federal Government);
  • Policy Authorising Authority: The PAA is a committee within the Foundation that has the mandate of drafting, adopting and maintaining the policies applicable to the Trust Management Infrastructure;
  • Users: These are the communities of trust or individuals that of such communities that form part of the Trust Management Infrastructure as clients of the Operator that wish to form part of or wish to be connected in some form or another to the Trust Management Framework and are accepted by the Operator to form part of it. They can be public or private sector entities, interoperable or not, in vertical sectors or across sectors (e.g. biometric passports, electronic ID systems, digital TV authentication systems, employee ID cards, etc.).
  • The Trust Communities or Users of the Trust Management Infrastructure installed by, serviced by or the users of other such infrastructures that wish to form part of the institutional framework and are accepted as members by the Foundation.

In accordance with the Swiss law (and the law of many other jurisdictions), foundations do not have shareholders but are composed of capital and have an objective they must pursue. Under Swiss law, foundations are subject to annual audits by qualified and certified auditors and to supervision by the Swiss federal government to ensure that the capital of the foundation is used in conformity with the objectives of the foundation (Art. 84 Swiss Civil Code). The Institution Framework does not necessarily require a foundation to undertake the role described herein and can therefore be extended to other entities that are functionally equivalent to the foundation in terms of its mandate in within the Institutional and Trust Frameworks.

The rules and processes used for the interaction of the different entities within the Institutional Framework constitute the Trust Management Framework (TMF). The infrastructure built upon or using the Trust Management Framework is the Trust Management Infrastructure (TMI).

Trust Management Framework (TMF):

The Trust Management Framework is a broad concept that spans traditional concepts of “trust” that have applied over time as well as the mapping and expansion of those concepts to information and communications technologies. The Trust Management Framework is built upon the Institutional Framework through the regulation of the interactions among the entities that form part of the Institutional Framework.

Each of the entities plays a specific role in the establishment and maintenance of the Trust Management Framework as follows:

The Foundation: Among the objectives of the foundation are the promotion, development and deployment of secure electronic communications and trust management infrastructures. The Foundation’s control over the Trust Management Infrastructure is based on the following mechanisms:

  • Ownership of Key Assets: The Foundation owns the Root Cryptographic Keys used as the apex of the Trust Management Infrastructures.
  • Independent Oversight: The Foundation is subject to supervision by the Swiss Federal Government as well as an audit by an independent auditor.
  • Policy Creation Capacity: The Policy Approval Authority (PAA), which is an internal committee that operates within the Foundation, has the unique authority to determine the policies that shall apply to the Trust Management Framework. The members of the PAA are chosen and function in accordance to rules that do not compromise its policy authority mandate.
  • Representative Membership: The membership of the PAA is made up of governments, international organizations, NGOs, users of the Trust Management Infrastructure and other entities that are representative constituencies relevant to the Foundation’s objectives.
  • Policy Enforcement: In the event that the Operator or one of the members of the Trust Management Infrastructure does not comply with the policies adopted the Foundation has the authority to take the necessary measures to ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of the Trust Management Framework.

The Policy Approval Authority: Subject to criteria determined by the Foundation, certain users of the Trust Management Infrastructure (generally representatives of users) may be invited to form part of the Policy Approval Authority in accordance with the PAA’s operational rules. The Foundation requires the PAA to exercise its role as a neutral and representative entity in charge of defining the policies that will apply to the Trust Management Infrastructure, in the pursuit of the Foundation’s mandate. Therefore the composition and rules of the PAA are essential to the overall neutrality and reliability of the Trust Management Framework. The Foundation shall also seek the participation of third parties that are not necessarily direct users of the Trust Management Infrastructure as a means of ensuring representation and neutrality, such as international organizations, non-governmental organizations, governments, technology companies, and others. The Foundation and the Operator shall have permanent seats on the PAA. The PAA is required to undertake ongoing work on the establishment and maintenance of policies and practices that will apply to the Trust Management Framework, which therefore entails taking into consideration developments in technology, the law, politics, culture, and the economy in order to ensure that it continues to pursue the objectives of the Foundation.

The Supervisory Authority: In accordance with Article 84 of the Swiss Civil Code, foundations are subject to supervision by the Swiss government in order to ensure that its capital is used in accordance with the foundation’s objectives. In this regard, the Foundation has to ensure that its objectives are met on a regular basis in order to continue operating as such. In the event that

The result of this independent supervision is that the Foundation, through the different methods available to it (i.e. ownership of key assets, policy creation authority, policy enforcement, representative membership), must seek compliance with its objectives. In the context of the Trust Framework, complying with those objectives means focusing on the promotion, development and deployment of secure electronic communications and trust management infrastructures.

The Independent Auditor:

In accordance with Swiss law, foundations are subject to annual audits by duly qualified and independent accountants. The auditor’s report is submitted to the supervisory authority. These audits ensure that the Foundation is financially viable and can continue the pursuit of its objectives.

The Operator:

The Operator is contractually bound to the Foundation with regard to:

  • the diligent management of the root cryptographic keys of the Trust Management Infrastructure that are subject to such keys;
  • diligent compliance with the policies and practices adopted by the Policy Approval Authority of the Foundation;
  • participate in the Policy Approval Authority in order to ensure maintaining state of the art policies in a pragmatic manner for the Trust Management Framework;
  • the payment of royalty fees to the Foundation;
  • diligently pursuing within its mandate the objectives of the Foundation;
  • license any rights it owns that are necessary for the Foundation to accomplish its objective.

The Operator also undertakes activities that are unrelated to the Foundation’s contractual relationship (including the operation of trust management infrastructures that do not form part of the Trust Management Framework) but such activities may not negatively impact in a substantial manner its obligations under its contract with the Foundation.

The Users of the Trust Management Infrastructure:

The Users of the Trust Management Infrastructure are the clients of the Operator that wish to form part of or whish to be connected in some form or another to the Trust Management Framework and are accepted by the Foundation to form part of it. Users can have any orientation as the Trust Management Framework is based on the assumption that trust is dynamic and unorganised and will therefore vary depending on the circumstances and environment (e.g. social, legal, political, economics, technological infrastructure, etc.). Therefore, the development of the Trust Management Infrastructure is intended to gravitate towards pre-existing trust environments (e.g. closed communities such as a company or governments) or towards trusted environments that grow as a result of the new technologies or other relevant circumstances (e.g. online communities using e-voting systems or trading systems). Examples of the types of entities that can become Users of the Trust Management Infrastructure are the following:

  • Governments, International Organizations and Public Sector Entities: These are Entities that have chosen to form part of the Trust Management Framework and have a public sector interest in the establishment, operation and development of the Trust Management Infrastructure. They can be as large as a national government or as small as a government department or a small NGO with a public sector interest.
  • Companies, Associations and other Private Sector Entities: These are Entities that have chosen to form part of the Trust Management Framework and have a private sector interest in the establishment, operation and development of the Trust Management Infrastructure. They can be small or medium enterprises, large multinationals, chambers of commerce, industry associations, or other entities of any size or configuration that have a private sector interest.
  • Individuals: These are individuals that are part of a Trust Management Infrastructure. The Foundation, the PAA or the Operator may provide such individuals with certain rights regarding the establishment, operation and development of the Trust Management Framework trough, for example, electronic voting mechanisms for specific purposes.

The foregoing classification is only provided as a means of indicating the breadth of the communities the Trust Management Infrastructure can be used in and not as a means of restricting the types of Users. On the contrary, the types of Users are intended to evolve over time and across environments.

In essence, the interactions among the different members of the Trust Management Framework allows the organic deployment of trusted communities whilst maintaining reliable and trustworthy environments adapted to the environment and circumstances in which those communities interact. The Trust Management Framework allows for the Trust Management Infrastructure to be deployed in a jurisdictionally fragmented manner enabling, to the extent possible under the specific circumstances, for each specific Trust Community to adapt to local or applicable regulations while maintaining common hierarchical security requirements that must be complied with across the other Trust Communities with which it interoperates and the Trust Management Infrastructure as a whole. This unique framework provides an exceptional trust management mechanism:

  • top-down trust management is provided by its explicit rules of the Trust Management Framework that apply to all Trust Management Infrastructures.
  • bottom-up trust management is provided by capacity to adapt the Trust Management Infrastructures to the specific circumstances and environments in which they are deployed and used.
  • Horizontal trust management is provided by enabling communities to become immediately interoperable upon joining the Trust Management Infrastructure or over time as specific Trust Communities may decide to become interoperable within the Trust Management Infrastructure.

Trust Management Infrastructure (TFI):

The Trust Management Infrastructure is similar to the concept of a “Bridge PKI” but broader in the sense that it does not only enable the interoperation of different communities but goes beyond that, as is explained herein.

The Trust Management Infrastructure is composed of the Operator and the Trust Communities that are established in compliance with the Trust Management Framework and have been approved by the Operator to become part of the Trust Management Infrastructure in accordance with the policies and procedures adopted by the Policy Authorising Authority.