• AWS CloudHSM is a cloud-based hardware security module (HSM) that provides secure cryptographic key storage and enables you to easily generate and use your own encryption keys on the AWS Cloud.
  • CloudHSM helps manage your own encryption keys using FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validated HSMs.
  • AWS CloudHSM helps meet corporate, contractual and regulatory compliance requirements for data security by using dedicated HSM appliances within the AWS cloud.
  • A hardware security module (HSM)
    • is a hardware appliance that provides secure key storage and cryptographic operations within a tamper-resistant hardware module.
    • are designed with physical and logical mechanisms, to securely store cryptographic key material and use the key material without exposing it outside the cryptographic boundary of the appliance.
    • physical protections include tamper detection and tamper response. When a tampering event is detected, the HSM is designed to securely destroy the keys rather than risk compromise.
    • logical protections include role-based access controls that provide separation of duties
  • CloudHSM allows encryption key protection within HSMs, designed and validated to government standards for secure key management.
  • CloudHSM helps comply with strict key management requirements within the AWS cloud without sacrificing application performance
  • CloudHSM uses SafeNet Luna SA HSM appliances
  • HSMs are located in AWS data centres, managed and monitored by AWS, but AWS does not have access to the keys.
  • CloudHSM makes periodic backups of the users, keys, and policies in the cluster.
  • CloudHSM is a fully-managed service that automates time-consuming administrative tasks, such as hardware provisioning, software patching, high availability, and backups.
  • CloudHSM also enables you to scale quickly by adding and removing HSM capacity on-demand, with no up-front costs.
  • CloudHSM automatically load balances requests and securely duplicates keys stored in any HSM to all of the other HSMs in the cluster.
  • Only you have access to the keys and operations to generate, store and manage the keys.
  • AWS can’t help recover the key material if the credentials are lost
  • CloudHSM provides single tenant dedicated access to each HSM appliance
  • HSMs are inside your VPC and isolated from the rest of the network
  • Placing HSM appliances near the EC2 instances decreases network latency, which can improve application performance
  • Integrated with Amazon Redshift and Amazon RDS for Oracle
  • Other use cases like EBS volume encryption and S3 object encryption and key management can be handled by writing custom applications and integrating them with CloudHSM
  • CloudHSM can perform a variety of cryptographic tasks:
    • Generate, store, import, export, and manage cryptographic keys, including symmetric keys and asymmetric key pairs.
    • Use symmetric and asymmetric algorithms to encrypt and decrypt data.
    • Use cryptographic hash functions to compute message digests and hash-based message authentication codes (HMACs).
    • Cryptographically sign data (including code signing) and verify signatures.
    • Generate cryptographically secure random data.

CloudHSM Use Cases

  • Offload SSL/TLS processing for the web servers.
  • Store the Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) master encryption key for Oracle database servers that support TDE.
  • Store private keys and sign certificate requests acting act as an issuing CA to issue certificates for your organization.

CloudHSM Clusters

  • CloudHSM Cluster is a collection of individual HSMs kept in sync.
  • HSMs can be placed in different AZs to provide high availability. Spreading clusters across AZs provides redundancy and high availability.
  • Cluster can be added with more HSMs for scalability and performance.
  • Cluster with more than one HSM is automatically load balanced.
  • CloudHSM helps keep the cluster synchronized, redundant, and highly available.

CloudHSM vs KMS


AWS Certification Exam Practice Questions

    • Questions are collected from Internet and the answers are marked as per my knowledge and understanding (which might differ with yours).
    • AWS services are updated everyday and both the answers and questions might be outdated soon, so research accordingly.
    • AWS exam questions are not updated to keep up the pace with AWS updates, so even if the underlying feature has changed the question might not be updated
    • Open to further feedback, discussion and correction.
  1. With which AWS services CloudHSM can be used (select 2)
    1. S3
    2. DynamoDb
    3. RDS
    4. ElastiCache
    5. Amazon Redshift
  2. An AWS customer is deploying a web application that is composed of a front-end running on Amazon EC2 and of confidential data that is stored on Amazon S3. The customer security policy that all access operations to this sensitive data must be authenticated and authorized by a centralized access management system that is operated by a separate security team. In addition, the web application team that owns and administers the EC2 web front-end instances is prohibited from having any ability to access the data that circumvents this centralized access management system. Which of the following configurations will support these requirements:
    1. Encrypt the data on Amazon S3 using a CloudHSM that is operated by the separate security team. Configure the web application to integrate with the CloudHSM for decrypting approved data access operations for trusted end-users. (S3 doesn’t integrate directly with CloudHSM, also there is no centralized access management system control)
    2. Configure the web application to authenticate end-users against the centralized access management system. Have the web application provision trusted users STS tokens entitling the download of approved data directly from Amazon S3 (Controlled access and admins cannot access the data as it needs authentication)
    3. Have the separate security team create and IAM role that is entitled to access the data on Amazon S3. Have the web application team provision their instances with this role while denying their IAM users access to the data on Amazon S3 (Web team would have access to the data)
    4. Configure the web application to authenticate end-users against the centralized access management system using SAML. Have the end-users authenticate to IAM using their SAML token and download the approved data directly from S3. (not the way SAML auth works and not sure if the centralized access management system is SAML complaint)