Hardware Security Modules: The Ultimate Black Boxes

Monday, January 28, 2019 - 11:00 am11:30 am

Ryan Lackey, Tezos


Hardware Security Modules occupy a unique position in computer security–they are used to manage the most important secrets, but they're closed designs where opacity and tamper-response are inherent design requirements. These devices have had varying levels of adoption, from being the only way to do cryptography fast, to only being used when security was required (often by regulation), to now being used to protect high-value secrets at a distance. Unfortunately, many of the designs on the market are very old, and essentially designed for a different use case and threat model than exists today. To a degree, even existing certification procedures act as an impediment to successful use of the technology.

We will describe the issues with premises and cloud-based HSMs, as well as some ways to work around these limitations and how to build a new kind of product for current needs.

Ryan Lackey, Tezos

Ryan Lackey has been a cypherpunk since the early 1990s. As one of the founders of the world's first offshore datahaven (HavenCo on Sealand), he built physical infrastructure to help others engage in jurisdictional arbitrage. In addition to some early anonymous electronic cash projects, he's been a war zone entrepreneur in Iraq and Afghanistan, founded a YC-backed hardware server security startup (sold to Cloudflare), and now works on hardware and systems security for high-risk applications (travel, cryptocurrency, and high-profile targets) and heads security for the Tezos Foundation.

@conference {226335,
author = {Ryan Lackey},
title = {Hardware Security Modules: The Ultimate Black Boxes},
year = {2019},
address = {Burlingame, CA},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},