What is a Cloud Hardware Security Module? How to Choose the Right Cloud HSM?

Cloud HSM for Code Signing

Everyone and everything is available on the internet in today’s Digital Era. Nowadays, finding security and privacy of data might be tough. Having a security module is critical for this, but how do you choose and identify the proper security module?

According to one IBM analysis, the average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, the highest amount on record. Human error is responsible for 74% of cybersecurity breaches mentioned in the Verizon report.

Remember, your data is precious. Don’t leave it unprotected. Buy yourself an HSM and keep your data safe.

Let us first define a Cloud Hardware Security Module. Why is it required? And how to select the best Cloud HSM. Let’s dive deeper.

What is a Cloud Hardware Security Module (HSM)?

A Hardware Security Module (HSM) is a physical device that provides additional protection for sensitive data. These devices store encryption keys for critical operations, including access, decryption, and authentication of applications, identities, and data.

These devices can be connected to the card or embedded in other devices, including smart cards, devices and other external devices. They are also available as cloud services.

Recommended: What is a Hardware Security Module? Role of HSMs for Digital Signing

Organizations use HSMs to separate encryption functions for business applications, personal applications, and business applications from normal operations and control access to these functions.

For example, companies may use HSMs to protect business secrets or intellectual property by ensuring that only authorized users have access to the HSM full transfer of encryption keys.

In simple terms; Think of this little, private safe for keeping your top secret stuff such as pass-words and encryption codes. That’s why we have a Hardware Security Module.

Today, in this computer-dominated generation, with so much private data online, the need to keep such data secure is paramount. HSM works just like a loyal bodyguard for your data and ensures that no one can steal it even when the computer or entire network is hacked into.

Cloud Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) can be Hosted in the Cloud or As a Service

Hosted HSMs are standalone physical HSMs owned by customers and run from the cloud or from a vendor. The solution is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliant and provides excellent physical protection against unauthorized physical access. However, the financial structure of HSM hosting limits scalability. In order to make measurements, physical equipment needs to be used more.

The As-a-Service solution manages HSMs completely or partially. Management functions such as priority management might be part of a service solution or done on-premises or in a different cloud by the customer.

As a service provider providing HSM boxes to tenants, FIPS 140-2 Level 3 protection for all tenants. Such containers provide personalized and secure storage permissions for each tenant, as well as the cloud’s scalability benefits.

They are separate from the infrastructure of the cloud service provider (CSP) and totally isolate the consumer from encryption needs.

The service is available in multi-cloud or hybrid cloud concepts. CSecond, HSM services have the benefit of being able to be used across the cloud, encompassing the customer’s own data as well as many third-party clouds.

Cloud HSMs: The Question of Security and Efficiency

However, HSMs within the cloud environment are advantageous to institutions that intend to keep sensitive information on the cloud with strong protection policies. Here are some key benefits:

Aligned Crypto Security:

Organizations can use Cloud HSMs in conjunction with a cloud strategy to provide an integrated security solution.

Cost-Effective Security:

As such, Cloud HSMs represent an effective means of managing critical security needs. Organizations are able to forego costs associated with purchasing and maintaining hardware by employing cloud based services to offer them the required level security they require.

Shift to Operational Expenses:

Cloud HSM enables organizations to convert to the Opex model from the Capex model. This helps to provide room for investments in other areas and as well, reduce budgeting for security needs.

High-Assurance Compliance:

As well as meeting all rigorous security and compliance conditions such as FIPS 140-2, PCI, and Common Criteria EAL4+, cloud HSMs are also compliant. In this way, organizations will be secure from losses that may arise when breach of personal information within a company.

Increased Efficiency:

In this way, cloud HSMs make it possible for highly qualified officials to pay attention to the most important issues and allow many of the ordinary routine management tasks to proceed on autopilot. This also helps them specialize their skills in specific areas and hence boost their overall operations’ efficiencies.

When selecting HSM for migration into the cloud, companies should make sure that their choice corresponds to the existing industry standards and is secure enough according to their needs.

Such includes reviewing the sector specific regulations to ensure that the design of the system meets the accepted set standard in the respective industry. The security offered by moving to a cloud based HSM service is just one element of many. Shared resources will help them; organizations will attain the vast database and orchestrate crucial services with ease.

Careful consideration of an organization’s needs and the choice of appropriate CloudHSM will deliver combined strengths for security, efficiency, and scalability for data protection in the cloud environment.

Benefits of Using Cloud HSM

Cloud Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) offer several key benefits over traditional on-premises HSMs:


  • Reduced upfront costs: Saves on upfront investment, as well as in maintaining operational costs for tangible infrastructure.
  • Pay-as-you-go pricing: In most cases, cloud HSMs are based on a pay-as-you-go system whereby an organization can scale up or down its resources depending on its requirements in order to optimize cost.


  • Rapidly Scale Resources: This makes cloud HSMs scalable on demand by enabling an organization to expand/reduce its cryptographic capacity in line with variations of their needs.
  • High Availability: Geographic deployment of cloud HSMs ensures that key applications remain on all the time and available at all times.


  • Enhanced Physical Security: Cloud HSMs take advantage of the solid security architecture of cloud providers for providing multiple layers of shielding against physical violations as well as tampering.
  • Regular Security Updates: The HSM infrastructure of a cloud provider is constantly patched and updated in order to prevent attacks with emerging threats.
  • Compliance with Stringent Standards: Cloud HSMs often follow FIPS 140-2, PCI, and Common Criteria EAL4+ standards that may aid in regulatory compliance.


  • Reduced Operational Overhead: Since cloud providers deploy, maintain, and patch HSMs, the IT team can concentrate on other tasks.
  • Simplified Administration: With cloud HSM, one can use a web interface or API that is designed to facilitate management and automation of these tasks.
  • Remote Access: The cloud based HSM provides organizations with the ability to access and manage HSM from anywhere in the world thus enhancing flexibility and control.

Additional Benefits:

  • Integration with Cloud Services: The integration of cloud HSMs is easy with other cloud services and this makes work flow easier and manage security issues more conveniently.
  • Disaster Recovery Capabilities: This is why cloud HMSs provide effective disaster recovery features that will guarantee business resiliency even for unpredictable happenings.
  • Access to Latest Technology: Provision of the most current Crypto technology and security capabilities to organizations and to ensure they are ahead of any emerging threats through their Cloud – based HSMs.

In most cases cloud HSMs prove themselves as a good substitute instead of conventional in-house HSMs, which gives a chance to save money while ensuring a high level of safety of your keys and confidential data inside the Cloud.

What is the Difference Between CloudHSM and HSM?

CloudHSM and HSM are both hardware security modules that manage cryptographic keys to secure sensitive data. Their deployment and management models, however, differ:

ManagementOn-premises IT teamCloud provider or shared
CostHigh upfront cost, ongoing maintenanceLower upfront cost, pay-as-you-go
SecurityHigh physical securityLeverages cloud provider’s security
ComplianceMeets stringent standardsMeets stringent standards
BenefitsIdeal for strict security needs, full controlCost-effective, scalable, easy to manage
DrawbacksHigh cost, limited scalability, requires dedicated IT resourcesLess control, potential security concerns

What is the Difference between HSM and KMS?

While both HSM (Hardware Security Module) and KMS (Key Management Service) play important roles in data security, their tasks and strengths are vastly different. Understanding these nuances is critical for selecting the best solution for your individual requirements. Here’s how it works:

FunctionPerforms cryptographic operationsManages cryptographic keys
Ideal forHigh-security needs, sensitive dataDiverse security needs, budget-conscious
BenefitsHigh security, dedicated hardware, offline key storageCost-effective, scalable, easy to manage
DrawbacksHigh cost, limited scalability, complex managementLower security, limited offline key storage, less control

Choosing the Right Cloud HSM: Simple Security across Multiple Cloud Environments

For example, when major cloud services have a cloud services hardware security module, it can be difficult to choose from the many options.

According to 451 Research, 69% of organizations today have adopted the hybrid multi-cloud model. However, managing multiple such cloud-based HSMs certainly increases complexity, cost, and operational burden.

The selection of an appropriate cloud HSM depends upon various specifications like particular security requirements, budget constraints and managerial preferences.

Here are Some Key Aspects to Consider:

Security Requirements:

  • Sensitivity of Data: Depending on the amount of sensitive information that will be stored in your cloud HSM, you may need a varying degree of protection. Data that is sensitive demands security at a greater level when compared to lesser-sensitive data.
  • Compliance Requirements: The law is particularly keen on ensuring that certain industries comply with their data security requirements. Select a suitable cloud HSM that conforms to the corresponding requirements of FIPS 140-2 and/or PCI DSS.
  • Threat Landscape: Think of the various risks that your date might be exposed to then select the type of cloud HSM that will ensure it is not vulnerable. This can entail acquiring a tamperable cloud HSM in case you apprehend that one is worried about physical assaults.


  • Current and Future Data Encryption Needs: Select an elastic cloud HSM, which can adjust automatically to fit your varying data encryption requirements.
  • Geographic Distribution: A provider whose data centers are scattered globally is advisable if you will require access to cloud HSM from many regions of the world.


  • Upfront Costs: Take into account the upfront costs to install, configure, and deploy a cloud HSM.
  • Ongoing Costs: The current expenses of diverse cloud HSM suppliers, comprising subscription charges, per usage charge, as well as assistance fee.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Examine whether investing in cloud HSM would be profitable. For example, you need to consider that will entail a reduction in hardware costs and ease of management as well as increased security.


  • Easy to Use: Choose cloud HSM with easy user interface and clear data.
  • Management Tools: Consider the level of control you need over your cloud HSM and choose a provider with appropriate management tools.
  • Integration with Existing Infrastructure: Make sure the cloud HSM you choose integrates seamlessly with your existing IT infrastructure.

Other Key Features:

  • Security Provider: Choose a cloud HSM provider with a reputation for security and reliability.
  • Support: Consider your cloud HSM vendor’s support level and make sure it meets your needs.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA): See the SLA provided by your cloud HSM provider to understand uptime, performance, and support.

Here are Some Additional Tips for Choosing the Right Cloud HSM Policy:

  • Start by Defining your Needs: Clearly define your security needs, scalability needs, budget, and management preferences.
  • Explore Different Cloud Providers HSM: Compare services, prices and services of providers with different capabilities.
  • Read Reviews from Other Customers: Hear from other organizations using Cloud HSM and learn about their experiences.
  • Free Trial: Many cloud HSM vendors offer a free trial so you can try it out
  • Talk to a Cloud HSM Expert: Consulting a Cloud HSM expert can help you choose solutions that fit your specific needs.

By carefully considering these factors and doing careful research, you can choose the right cloud HSM that meets your security, scalability and budget needs.

Supported Cloud HSMs for Code Signing

Cloud HSM is a cloud-hosted Hardware Security Module (HSM) service that enables you to perform cryptographic operations and host encryption keys.

Cloud-based secure critical management solutions are becoming increasingly necessary as more enterprises use cloud computing. The supported cloud HSMs for document signing will be explored in this section.

To have a deeper understanding, let us explore the widely used Cloud HSM Services:

Microsoft Azure Key Vault (Premium SKU)

Azure Key Vault is a key management solution that addresses issues such as – Certificate Management, Key Management, and Secrets Management.

There are two service tiers for Azure Key Vault: Standard, which uses a software key for encryption, and Premium, which has keys secured by a hardware security module (HSM).

Recommended: How to Create Key Vault, CSR, and Import Code Signing Certificate in Azure KeyVault HSM?

Microsoft Azure Key Vault Managed HSM

You can secure cryptographic keys for your cloud applications with Azure Key Vault Managed HSM (Hardware Security Module), a fully managed, highly available, single-tenant, standards-compliant cloud service that uses FIPS 140-2 Level 3 verified HSMs. It is one of Azure’s various essential management solutions.

Access control, improved data compliance and protection, centralized key management, data residency, monitoring, and auditing are some features it offers.

Amazon Key Management Service (KMS)

Amazon Key Management Service (KMS) is a managed service that allows customers to create and maintain cryptographic keys for data security.

Users may control access to the keys required to encrypt and decode data before storing it in other services since KMS is integrated with other AWS services. Key storage, key management, encryption, MACs, and hardware security modules are a few of the significant features.


AWS CloudHSM is a cryptography solution designed to let you create and manage hardware security modules (HSMs) within your AWS environment. HSMs are computer devices that conduct cryptographic operations and offer cryptographic keys for secure storage.

You can automate HSM administration (such as backups, provisioning, setup, and maintenance) using AWS CloudHSM, which offers low-latency access and total control over high-availability HSMs stored in the AWS Cloud.

Recommended: How to Use Microsoft SignTool with AWS CloudHSM to Digitally Sign Authenticode Files?

Google Cloud HSM

Cloud HSM is a cloud-hosted Hardware Security Module (HSM) service that enables you to Host encryption keys and conduct cryptographic operations in a cluster of FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified HSMs.

You don’t have to stress about clustering, patching, or scaling because Google looks after the HSM cluster. You can use all the capabilities and conveniences that Cloud KMS offers since Cloud HSM leverages Cloud KMS as its front end.

Recommended: How to Configure Google CloudHSM to Sign Windows Executables?

DigiCert KeyLocker Cloud HSM

DigiCert KeyLocker is a cloud-based service that creates and stores private keys for your code signing certificates in a way that complies with FIPS 140-2 level 3.

DigiCert KeyLocker is an automated substitute for choosing the purchase of a hardware security module (HSM) and keeping it on-site or for manually creating and keeping your private key on a hardware token that could be misplaced or stolen.

DigiCert KeyLocker cloud HSM has advantages, including CI/CD Integration, around-the-clock Availability, Authentication and Authorization, Compliance with required Standards, and Cost-effectiveness. Carries out all significant operations.

Cloud Code Signing

Automate and Centralized Code Signing Tasks without requiring of Physical Hardware Token or HSM using Cloud Code Signing. Better Security and CI/CD DevOps Workflow!

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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