Hardware security is a form of vulnerability protection that is a physical device instead of software.
It could be a device that is used to monitor or scan your systems for traffic, like a hardware firewall or a proxy server.
It could be a hardware security module (HSM) that provisions cryptographic keys for authentications, encryption, and decryption for some of your systems.
Whatever it is, a hardware system can give you far more solid security than you get using just software and it also adds another layer of security on your most important systems.
HSMs are dedicated cryptographic processors designed to protect a crypto key for its entire lifecycle.
Enterprises should use HSMs to manage, process and store cryptographic keys in a tamper-proof hardened device.
They protect all enterprise transactions, applications and identities and provision authentication, encryption, decryptions and digital signing for a large number of different applications.
With the right HSM, an enterprise can:
- Accelerate and offload cryptographic operations to a dedicated processor. This cuts out any bottlenecks in the system and speeds up performance
- Keep the management of cryptographic keys central – through the generation of the keys, to distribution and rotation. From storage to termination and archiving all in one secure purpose-built device.
- Achieve compliance and improve profitability – using digital signatures, PCI DSS, hardware key storage, DNSSEC, certificate signing, transactional acceleration, data encryption, bulk generation of keys, and much more besides.
Hardware security can also refer to the security you place on physical systems. An equipment destruction attack, for example, would focus on computers, and non-computer networked devices, like M2M and IoT, connected devices.
These kinds of environments bring communication and connectivity to vast numbers of hardware devices, all of which have to be kept secure, be it through software or hardware-based protection.
In assessing the type of security to use on a hardware device, you must first consider the vulnerabilities that could exist from the device manufacturer.
You must also think about the other sources that vulnerabilities may exist, such as data I/O and running code. The security level you place on these devices must be in accordance with the need.
For example, if you have a module that runs your lighting system, it wouldn’t need such a high level of security as one that runs a more critical function or protects significant hardware.
This is simply because of the reliability of a hardware security device, added to the reduction in the number of vulnerabilities that are associated with hardware security, make it a more advisable course of action.