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I have an PKCS#11 enabled application which interacts with HSM to store TDES keys. The HSM is initialized with the Security Officer (SO) password provided by the user while the application was first installed.

I would like to know how best to preserve the SO password so that if the application/system were to restart, without human intervention application can use the SO password to open sessions with HSM and utilize it. Currently, I try to read of the password stored encrypted in the file system. The key to encryption is hard coded in application. This would prevent anyone getting access to key/password unless intrudes the memory while the application is run. Seeking human input on every application restart is also ruled out.

What do security procedures normally recommend for protecting passwords/keys which an application uses to access service from other applications (HSM in my case) ?

  • a) an attacker could extract the encryption key from the binary... b) There's no perfect solution, but the best you have is to encrypt the password using hardware for each shutdown (f.ex. using a TPM) – SEJPM Jan 5 '16 at 19:58
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one way might be using a smartcard or similar for the authentication, nobody can read a password or similar from a smartcard and when you pull it, nobody is going to access your HSM, at least in theory.

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