AWS CloudHSM vs AWS Key Management Service

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AWS CloudHSM vs AWS Key Management Service: What are the differences?

Introduction

In this article, we will compare AWS CloudHSM and AWS Key Management Service (KMS) based on their key differences. Both services provide secure key management solutions in the AWS cloud, but they have distinct characteristics and use cases.

  1. Security and Compliance: AWS CloudHSM offers a dedicated Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliance that is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliant. It provides tamper-evident physical protection for cryptographic keys and supports a wide range of security certifications and regulations. On the other hand, AWS KMS is a managed service that abstracts away the underlying HSM infrastructure. It is engineered to comply with various security standards and regulations, including HIPAA, PCI DSS, and ISO 27001.

  2. Performance and Scalability: AWS CloudHSM provides high-performance cryptographic operations due to its dedicated HSM appliance. It offers single-tenant access to HSM resources and is designed for low-latency and high-throughput use cases. In contrast, AWS KMS is a scalable service that utilizes a shared infrastructure. While it may not deliver the same level of performance as CloudHSM for extremely demanding workloads, it provides excellent scalability and availability for most applications.

  3. Key Ownership and Management: With AWS CloudHSM, customers have full control over their keys as the HSM appliance is physically dedicated. They have exclusive administrative privileges and can manage the lifecycle of keys directly within the HSM. In AWS KMS, keys are managed through the KMS API, and customers retain control over key usage and rotation but do not have direct control over the underlying HSM infrastructure.

  4. Integration and Service Availability: AWS CloudHSM integrates with various AWS services using the CloudHSM client software, enabling secure key storage and cryptographic operations within those services. It provides greater flexibility in terms of integration options. AWS KMS, on the other hand, is a native service that seamlessly integrates with other AWS services without requiring any additional software installation.

  5. Cost and Pricing Model: AWS CloudHSM involves upfront costs as customers need to provision dedicated HSM appliances. It has an hourly usage fee, which includes the cost of the hardware and maintenance. AWS KMS, being a managed service, has a more flexible pricing model. It charges based on the number of API requests made and any additional features utilized, such as key rotation or custom key stores.

  6. Managed Service vs. On-Premises: AWS CloudHSM is an on-premises service where customers directly manage the HSM appliances and their physical security. This gives full control and responsibility to the customer but requires more operational overhead. On the other hand, AWS KMS is a fully managed cloud service that abstracts away the complexities of hardware management, providing a more convenient solution for customers who prefer a serverless key management approach.

In summary, AWS CloudHSM offers dedicated HSM appliances for enhanced security and performance, whereas AWS KMS is a fully managed service that provides scalability, ease of use, and integration with other AWS services. The choice between the two depends on specific use case requirements and preferences regarding control, security, and cost.

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    What is AWS CloudHSM?

    The AWS CloudHSM service allows you to protect your encryption keys within HSMs designed and validated to government standards for secure key management. You can securely generate, store, and manage the cryptographic keys used for data encryption such that they are accessible only by you. AWS CloudHSM helps you comply with strict key management requirements without sacrificing application performance.

    What is AWS Key Management Service?

    AWS Key Management Service (KMS) is a managed service that makes it easy for you to create and control the encryption keys used to encrypt your data, and uses Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) to protect the security of your keys. AWS Key Management Service is integrated with other AWS services including Amazon EBS, Amazon S3, and Amazon Redshift. AWS Key Management Service is also integrated with AWS CloudTrail to provide you with logs of all key usage to help meet your regulatory and compliance needs.

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    Blog Posts

    May 21 2020 at 12:02AM

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    What are some alternatives to AWS CloudHSM and AWS Key Management Service?
    Azure Key Vault
    Secure key management is essential to protect data in the cloud. Use Azure Key Vault to encrypt keys and small secrets like passwords that use keys stored in hardware security modules (HSMs). For more assurance, import or generate keys in HSMs, and Microsoft processes your keys in FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validated HSMs (hardware and firmware). With Key Vault, Microsoft doesn’t see or extract your keys. Monitor and audit your key use with Azure logging—pipe logs into Azure HDInsight or your security information and event management (SIEM) solution for more analysis and threat detection.
    AWS Certificate Manager
    It removes the time-consuming manual process of purchasing, uploading, and renewing SSL/TLS certificates. With this service, you can quickly request a certificate, deploy it on AWS resources.
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    Git
    Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.
    GitHub
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