Hardware Security Module Performance Optimization by Using a "Key Pool" : Generating keys when the load is low and saving in the external storage to use when the load is high

University essay from KTH/Radio Systems Laboratory (RS Lab)


This thesis project examines the performance limitations of Hardware Security Module (HSM) devices with respect to fulfilling the needs of security services in a rapidly growing security market in a cost-effective way. In particular, the needs due to the introduction of a new electronic ID system in Sweden (the Federation of Swedish eID) and how signatures are created and managed.

SafeNet Luna SA 1700 is a high performance HSM's available in the current market. In this thesis the Luna SA 1700 capabilities are stated and a comprehensive analysis of its performance shows a performance gap between what HSMs are currently able to do and what they need to do to address the expected demands. A case study focused on new security services needed to address Sweden's e Identification organization is presented. Based upon the expected performance demands, this thesis project proposes an optimized HSM solution to address the identified performance gap between what is required and what current HSMs can provide. A series of tests were conducted to measure an existing HSM's performance. An analysis of these measurements was used to optimize a proposed solution for selected HSM or similar HSMs. One of the main requirements of the new signing service is the capability to perform fifty digital signatures within the acceptable response time which is 300 ms during normal hours and 3000 ms during peak hours. The proposed solution enables the HSM to meet the expected demands of 50 signing request per second in the assumed two hours of peak rate at a cost that is 1/9 of the cost of simply scaling up the number of HSMs.

The target audience of this thesis project is Security Service Providers who use HSMs and need a high volume of key generation and storing. Also HSM vendors consider this solution and add similar functionality to their devices in order to meet the desired demands and to ensure a better future in this very rapidly growing market.

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