What is PCI HSM?

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What is PCI HSM?

The PCI HSM specification defines a set of logical and physical security compliance standards for HSMs specifically for the payments industry. Compliance certification depends on meeting those standards.

Certification Objectives

HSMs play a critical role in securing payment transactions, so it is essential that the HSMs themselves are kept secure throughout their lifecycle—from manufacturing and shipment to operation and decommissioning. The PCI HSM compliance certification standard provides HSM vendors with a strict set of security requirements and a rigorous process for having platforms assessed against these requirements.

Scope

PCI HSM compliance certification is increasingly becoming a fundamental requirement for various payment processes, including PIN processing, card verification, card production, ATM interchange, cash-card reloading and key generation.

Hardware

To be PCI HSM compliant, a platform must address the following physical security requirements:

  • Tamper-detection and response mechanisms
  • Resilience to abnormal environmental and operating conditions
  • Protection of sensitive data within the device
  • Preventing disclosure of sensitive information by external monitoring techniques
  • Protection of cryptographic keys inside the device, even if the security boundary is breached

Software and Settings

HSM software, configuration and management must address the following logical security requirements:

  • Resilience against unexpected command sequences or operating modes
  • Secure firmware management
  • Strong authentication prior to running sensitive services
  • Secure key management and key separation to prevent misuse and eliminate cleartext exposure of sensitive data and PINs
  • Secure audit trail

Supply Chain

The HSM vendor is required to provide evidence to the PCI HSM evaluation team that effective processes are in place to ensure that the HSM is secured at all times, from the time of manufacture to packaging and shipment to the end user.

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