New Custom Key Stores in KMS – Backed by CloudHSM

Another new announcement was made by AWS here at re:Invent, this time in the popular security category. AWS has announced new custom key stores backed by CloudHSM. Here’s some background and a summary of what this means.

The Key Management Service (KMS) stores and generates encryption keys that can be used by other AWS services and applications to encrypt your data.  A main component of KMS is the Customer Master Key (CMK), and there are there are 2 types of CMKs. One which is managed and created by customers of AWS and two, those that are managed and created by AWS themselves.  CMKs are stored in KMS using its own key store to securely maintain and store the CMKs which never leave the perimeter of the service.

CMKs that are created and generated by AWS customers allow for greater flexibility, such as key rotation, governing access, and key policy configuration, along with being able to both enable and disable the key when it is no longer required.

This new feature applies to customer managed CMKs only.  Instead of using KMS to store your CMKs, you can now generate a custom key store, which is effectively a cluster of hardware security modules (HSMs) managed by the AWS CloudHSM service.

When creating your customer managed CMK you will now see an option to use a custom key store, where the keys will reside on HSMs outside of KMS.

AWS custom key store CloudHSM

When selecting this option for your CMK you will be storing your key in a CloudHSM cluster.  These CMKs will then never leave your HSM cluster since KMS will be authorized to access the keys.  When the CMK is required, KMS will receive the request relating to the key held in your HSM and will communicate with your custom key store.  However, it’s important to note that all operations relating to the CMK are performed inside of the HSM and NOT KMS.

You may be thinking, this is a great feature but why would you want to do this in the first place?

In the world of security, your data may need to comply with a huge range of governance controls and compliance, and some of these may require you to store your key material in a dedicated HSM, rather than in a service like KMS.  By using a custom key store, you can still use the features and benefits of KMS and its interactions with other services and apps, while adhering to the requirements of having to store your key material in a dedicated HSM cluster.  Being able to control and manage your keys independently of KMS provides you with greater management of the keys.

With this additional control comes greater responsibility. KMS is no longer maintaining the availability of your keys, so you need to manage your cluster and high availability of that cluster.  Although you must have a minimum of two HSMs in your cluster for a custom key store, you should understand how CloudHSM can provide increased HA across multiple AZs before adopting custom key stores.

Having your CMKs stored outside of KMS prevents them from automatically being rotated by KMS.  Also, it’s not possible to import your own key material into a custom key store or migrate existing CMKs from the KMS key store to your custom key store.  All other aspects of using CMKs remains the same, so you don’t have to alter any other configurations. Any requests relating to the CMK still go through KMS, and you still use the same KMS APIs as you normally would.  It’s simply the location of the key store that’s different.

As expected, this new feature is fully supported by AWS CloudTrail as AWS CloudHSM logs all API activity. Additionally, CloudHSM maintains its own logs covering user and key management access, which are also sent to CloudWatch for further analysis if required.

From a cost perspective, there are no additional KMS charges, but you will be charged for the use of the CloudHSM cluster, depending on how many HSMs you have.  More information on CloudHSM pricing can be found here: https://aws.amazon.com/cloudhsm/pricing/

In summary, this is a great new feature that allows you to be more in control of your customer generated CMKs that will enable you to meet specific compliance while utilizing all the benefits from KMS.

For more information on KMS, check out Cloud Academy’s KMS course here.

 

Avatar

Written by

Stuart Scott

Stuart is the AWS content lead at Cloud Academy where he has created over 40 courses reaching tens of thousands of students. His content focuses heavily on cloud security and compliance, specifically on how to implement and configure AWS services to protect, monitor and secure customer data and their AWS environment.


Related Posts

Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 9, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 2, 2020

New Content: AWS, Azure, Typescript, Java, Docker, 13 New Labs, and Much More

This month, our Content Team released a whopping 13 new labs in real cloud environments! If you haven't tried out our labs, you might not understand why we think that number is so impressive. Our labs are not “simulated” experiences — they are real cloud environments using accounts on A...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 19, 2020

Kickstart Your Tech Training With a Free Week on Cloud Academy

Are you looking to make a jump in your technical career? Want to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Kubernetes, Python, or another in-demand skill?Then you'll want to mark your calendar. Starting Monday, June 22 at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 11, 2020

New Content: AZ-500 and AZ-400 Updates, 3 Google Professional Exam Preps, Practical ML Learning Path, C# Programming, and More

This month, our Content Team released tons of new content and labs in real cloud environments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first highly interactive "Office Hours" webinar. This webinar, Acing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, started with a quick overvie...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Rebecca Willis
Rebecca Willis
— June 3, 2020

Azure vs. AWS: Which Certification Provides the Brighter Future?

More and more companies are using cloud services, prompting more and more people to switch their current IT position to something cloud-related. The problem is most people only have that much time after work to learn new technologies, and there are plenty of cloud services that you can ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • certification
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 2, 2020

Blog Digest: 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified, OWASP Top 10, Getting Started with VPCs, Top 10 Soft Skills, and More

Thank you for being a valued member of our community! We recently sent out a short survey to understand what type of content you would like us to add to Cloud Academy, and we want to thank everyone who gave us their input. If you would like to complete the survey, it's not too late. It ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 11, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure Cert Prep: AI-100, AZ-104, AZ-204 & AZ-400, Amazon Athena Playground, Google Cloud Developer Challenge, and much more

This month, our Content Team released 8 new learning paths, 4 courses, 7 labs in real cloud environments, and 4 new knowledge check assessments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first course on Alibaba Cloud, and our expert instructors are working 'round the clock to create 6 n...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • gitops
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • lab playground
  • programming
Avatar
Rhonda Martinez
— May 4, 2020

Top 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified Right Now

Cloud computing trends are on the rise and have been for some time already. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start learning cloud computing. Skills like AWS and others associated with cloud computing are in high demand because cloud technologies have become crucial for many businesse...

Read more
  • Amazon Elastic Book Store
  • Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
  • Glacier
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 1, 2020

Introducing Our Newest Lab Environments: Lab Playgrounds

Want to train in a real cloud environment, but feel slowed down by spinning up your own deployments? When you consider security or pricing costs, it can be costly and challenging to get up to speed quickly for self-training. To solve this problem, Cloud Academy created a new suite of la...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Docker
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Java
  • lab playgrounds
  • Python
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 30, 2020

Blog Digest: AWS Breaking News, Azure DevOps, AWS Study Guide, 8 Ways to Prevent a Ransomware Attack, and More

  New articles by topicAWS Azure Data Science Google Cloud  Cloud Adoption Platform Updates & New Content Security Women in TechAWSBreaking News: All AWS Certification Exams Now Available Online As an Advanced AWS Technology Partner, C...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • programming
  • Security
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— April 27, 2020

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020, though you can still take SAA-C01 through July 1, 2020. This post will focus on version SAA-C02.The AWS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 9, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solutions Architect Exam Prep, Azure Courses, GCP Engineer Exam Prep, Programming, and More

Free content on Cloud Academy More and more customers are relying on our technology and content to keep upskilling their people in these months, and we are doing our best to keep supporting them. While the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make a small contribution to he...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • programming