What is a Hardware Security Module (HSM)?

Hardware security modules, or HSMs as it is fondly called, are the solution to this business problem. A hardware security module includes embedded PCI Express cards, standalone Ethernet-connected appliances, and USB-connected devices to match different applications and offer a certified, trusted platform for performing cryptographic operations and protecting keys throughout their entire lifecycle together.

Instead of being kept on vulnerable servers, your cryptographic keys are protected within the HSM’s secure boundary. Strong controls and policies safeguard access to the keys and how they can be used. The use of hardware security modules continues to grow drastically, expanding into more industries and use cases. 

What is PCI Compliance? 

The PCI Security Standard Council regulates HSM security. This community develops, manages, and regulates the security measures that should be implemented in a payment environment. It also defines the secure types of algorithms and how many should be used for data encryption and decryption. Like financial institutions, ServerMania’s infrastructure security is regularly monitored to ensure compliance with international regulatory statutes, industry standards, and mandates. Our network security is locked down on multiple logical layers using various methods, including private networking. Our security team monitors your systems and accounts for threats and vulnerabilities 24/7/365, whether on a Windows dedicated server or another operating system.

Why Are Hardware Security Modules A Good Idea?

Hardware security modules have been used for many years to perform cryptographic functions that underpin public key infrastructures and payment transactions. With hardware security modules, SSL and TLS encryption keys that allow for secure transactions over the web are securely protected. Today, you can find HSMs powering emerging use cases, such as the process of creating strong credentials for IoT devices such as gaming consoles, connected vehicles, and medical devices, which begins with a hardware security module.

Streaming video services rely on HSM to digitally watermark their content and safeguard against piracy, and even cutting-edge blockchain application technology is built using HSM as a secure foundation. Hardware security modules protect root keys that ensure the authenticity of blockchain participants’ digital footprints and also provide a secure environment for the execution of consensus logic. HSMs are the gold standard in preventing adversaries from stealing your encryption keys, accessing your data, or impersonating you in business transactions. 

Types of Hardware Security Modules (HSM)

General Purpose Hardware Security Modules

People mostly use general-purpose hardware security modules to protect cryptographic keys, basic private data, crypto wallets, random keys, and the public key infrastructure (PKI). These modules use common encryption methods. General-purpose HSMs often use CAPI, PKCS#11, CNG, and other methods.

Payment Hardware Security Modules

These modules are called a payment or payment and transaction HSM. It’s a cryptographic system designed to keep private information on credit and payment cards and other financial activities safe. These kinds of HSM are very important for keeping payment information safe and help businesses follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

How Do Hardware Security Modules (HSM) Work?

Hardware security modules deny access to applications that upload private keys onto a web server’s memory. This is useful because hackers can get to your security keys when they are on a web server. An unauthorized personnel who gets into the web server can find your key and use it to gain access to personal and sensitive data. With an HSM system in play, hackers will automatically be denied access to your company’s network regardless of their hacking skills. 

All the cryptographic operations and common encryption algorithms needed to protect data while it’s being sent happen in the HSM, which keeps data safe from attackers. Because of how it is built, unauthorized personnel can not change what is happening inside an HSM’s physical unit. This means that even though an HSM can take input from users, users can’t see how it works on the inside. Hard security modules are safe places to store your encrypted keys and do the steps needed to encrypt and recover data.

Important Features of HSM

Secure operating system: Working system with focused security.

Isolated: They are in a secure part of the data center, so people who aren’t supposed to be there can’t get to them. Not all companies keep their HSMs on-site; some store them in a third-party data center.

Access Controls: HSMs decide who can use the devices and see the data they keep safe. These are made to show signs of being tampered with; some HSMs stop working or delete encryption keys if they find out they have been tampered with.

Secure design: Government guidelines like Federal Information Processing Standardization (FIPS) 140-2, Common Criteria, and the HSM rules of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) are followed by the hardware used in HSMs.

APIs: The Public-Key Cryptography Standard and Cryptography API Next Generation are examples of application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used with HSMs to make new and integrate existing applications.


Working with a company that knows all of your security and privacy needs will make this process easier as you look into setting up HSM options for your physical devices. Cost is always important, but the most important thing is that you have power over your device and encryption keys.

You should carefully look over where your keys are saved for key sovereignty requirements, the connections that are available, and the key management tools. To protect your business and make your organization much safer, you need to make sure that the keys are kept in the right places.

To learn more about HSM Services and how ServerMania can help you save capital expenditures, maintain access to your critical keys, and strengthen the security of your data, book a FREE consultation with us today!