Vault HSM Configuration

Vault's HSM support is activated by one of the following:

  • The presence of an hsm block in Vault's configuration file
  • Values set in both the VAULT_HSM_LIB and VAULT_HSM_TYPE environment variables

IMPORTANT: Having Vault generate its own key is the easiest way to get up and running, but for security, Vault marks the key as non-exportable. If your HSM key backup strategy requires the key to be exportable, you should generate the key yourself. The list of creation attributes that Vault uses to generate the key are listed at the end of this document.

HSM Block Directives

Like the rest of Vault's configuration files, the hsm block is in HCL format.

The key of the hsm block is the type of HSM:

hsm "pkcs11" {

The type can also be set by the VAULT_HSM_TYPE environment variable. Currently, only pkcs11 is supported.

The following are the block directives and their effects. All parameters are strings.

Required Directives

  • lib: The path to the PKCS#11 library shared object file. May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_LIB environment variable.
  • slot: The slot number to use, specified as a string (e.g. "0"). May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_SLOT environment variable.
  • pin: The PIN for login. May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_PIN environment variable. If set via the environment variable, Vault will obfuscate the environment variable after reading it, and it will need to be re-set if Vault is restarted.
  • key_label: The label of the key to use. If the key does not exist and generation is enabled, this is the label that will be given to the generated key. May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_KEY_LABEL environment variable.

Optional Directives

  • mechanism: The encryption/decryption mechanism to use, specified as a decimal or hexadecimal (prefixed by 0x) string. Currently only 0x1082 (corresponding to CKM_AES_CBC from the specification) is supported. May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_MECHANISM environment variable.
  • generate_key: If no existing key with the label specified by key_label can be found at Vault initialization time, instructs Vault to generate a key. This is a boolean expressed as a string (e.g. "true"). May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_GENERATE_KEY environment variable.
  • regenerate_key: At Vault initialization time, force generation of a new key even if one with the given key_label already exists. This is a boolean expressed as a string (e.g. "true"). May also be specified by the VAULT_HSM_REGENERATE_KEY environment variable.

Vault Key Generation Attributes

If Vault generates the HSM key for you, the following is the list of attributes it uses. These identifiers correspond to official PKCS#11 identifiers.

  • CKA_CLASS: CKO_SECRET_KEY (It's a secret key)
  • CKA_KEY_TYPE: CKK_AES (Key type is AES)
  • CKA_VALUE_LEN: 32 (Key size is 256 bits)
  • CKA_LABEL: Set to the key label set in Vault's configuration
  • CKA_ID: Set to a random 32-bit unsigned integer
  • CKA_PRIVATE: true (Key is private to this slot/token)
  • CKA_TOKEN: true (Key persists to the slot/token rather than being for one session only)
  • CKA_SENSITIVE: true (Key is a sensitive value)
  • CKA_ENCRYPT: true (Key can be used for encryption)
  • CKA_DECRYPT: true (Key can be used for decryption)
  • CKA_WRAP: true (Key can be used for wrapping)
  • CKA_UNWRAP: true (Key can be used for unwrapping)
  • CKA_EXTRACTABLE: false (Key cannot be exported)