AWS Key Management Service Documentation

Overview

AWS Key Management Service (KMS) gives you centralized control over the cryptographic keys used to protect your data. The service is integrated with other AWS services, allowing you to encrypt data you store in these services and control access to the keys that decrypt it. AWS KMS is also integrated with AWS CloudTrail, which provides you the ability to audit who used which keys, on which resources, and when. AWS KMS enables developers to add encryption or digital signature functionality to their application code either directly or by using the AWS SDK. The AWS Encryption SDK supports AWS KMS as a root key provider for developers who need to encrypt/decrypt data locally within their applications.

Centralized Key Management

AWS KMS provides you with centralized control over the lifecycle and permissions of your keys. You can create new keys and you can control who can manage keys separately from who can use them. As an alternative to using keys generated by AWS KMS, you can import keys from your own key management infrastructure, or use keys stored in your AWS CloudHSM cluster. You can choose automatic rotation of root keys generated in AWS KMS once per year without the need to re-encrypt previously encrypted data. The service keeps older versions of the root key available to decrypt previously encrypted data. You can manage your root keys and audit their usage from the AWS Management Console or by using the AWS SDK or AWS Command Line Interface (CLI).

* The option to import keys is not available for asymmetric keys.

AWS Service Integration

AWS KMS integrates with AWS services to encrypt data at rest, or to facilitate signing and verification using an AWS KMS key. To protect data at rest, integrated AWS services use envelope encryption, where a data key is used to encrypt data, and is itself encrypted under a KMS key stored in AWS KMS. For signing and verification, integrated AWS services use a key pair from an asymmetric KMS key in AWS KMS. For more details about how an integrated service uses AWS KMS, see the documentation for your AWS service.

There are two types of KMS key resources that can be created in your AWS account: (i) An AWS managed KMS key can be created automatically when needed. You can list or inventory AWS Managed KMS keys and receive a record of their use in AWS CloudTrail, but permissions for the resource are managed by the AWS service it was created to be used with. (ii) A customer managed KMS key gives you the highest degree of control over the permissions and lifecycle of the key.

Audit Capabilities

If you have AWS CloudTrail enabled for your AWS account, each request you make to AWS KMS is recorded in a log file that is delivered to the Amazon S3 bucket that you specified when you enabled AWS CloudTrail.

Scalability, Durability, and High Availability

AWS KMS is a fully managed service. As your use of encryption grows, the service automatically scales to meet your needs. It enables you to manage thousands of KMS keys in your account and to use them whenever you want. It defines default limits for number of keys and request rates, but you can request increased limits if necessary.

The KMS keys you create or ones that are created on your behalf by other AWS services cannot be exported from the service. To help ensure that your keys and your data is highly available, it stores multiple copies of encrypted versions of your keys .

If you import keys into the service, you maintain a secure copy of the KMS keys so that you can re-import them if they are not available when you need to use them. If you use the custom key store feature to create your KMS keys in an AWS CloudHSM cluster, encrypted copies of your keys are automatically backed up and you have full control over the recovery process.

For encrypted data or digital signature workflows that move across Regions, you can create KMS multi-Region keys, a set of interoperable keys with the same key material and key IDs that can be replicated into multiple Regions.

AWS KMS is designed to be a highly available service with a regional API endpoint. As most AWS services rely on it for encryption and decryption, it is architected to provide a level of availability that supports the rest of AWS and is backed by the AWS KMS Service Level Agreement.

Secure

AWS KMS is designed so that no one, including AWS employees, can retrieve your plaintext keys from the service. The service uses hardware security modules (HSMs) that have been validated under FIPS 140-2, or are in the process of being validated, designed to protect the confidentiality and integrity of your keys. Your plaintext keys are never written to disk and only ever used in volatile memory of the HSMs for the time needed to perform your requested cryptographic operation. This is true regardless of whether you request AWS KMS to create keys on your behalf, import them into the service, or create them in an AWS CloudHSM cluster using the custom key store feature. Keys created by AWS KMS are never transmitted outside of the AWS region in which they were created and can only be used in the region in which they were created. Updates to the AWS KMS HSM firmware are controlled by multi-party access control that is audited and reviewed by an independent group within Amazon as well as a NIST accredited lab.
 
* In the AWS China (Beijing) Region, operated by Sinnet and the AWS China (Ningxia) Region, operated by NWCD, the HSMs are Chinese government approved (not FIPS 140-2 validated). 

Custom Key Store

AWS KMS provides the option for you to create your own key store using HSMs that you control. Each custom key store is backed by an AWS CloudHSM cluster. When you create a KMS key in a custom key store, the service generates and stores key material for the KMS key in an AWS CloudHSM cluster that you own and manage. When you use a KMS key in a custom key store, the cryptographic operations under that key are performed in your AWS CloudHSM cluster.

KMS keys stored in a custom key store are managed by you like any other KMS key and can be used with any AWS service that integrates with AWS KMS.

The use of a custom key store involves the additional cost of the AWS CloudHSM cluster and makes you responsible for the availability of the key material in that cluster.

* The Custom Key Store feature is not available in the AWS China (Beijing) Region, operated by Sinnet and the AWS China (Ningxia) Region, operated by NWCD.
** The Custom Key Store option is not available for asymmetric KMS keys.

Asymmetric Keys

AWS KMS provides you the capability to create and use asymmetric KMS keys and data key pairs. You can designate a KMS key for use as a signing key pair or an encryption key pair. Key pair generation and asymmetric cryptographic operations using these KMS keys are performed inside HSMs. You can request the public portion of the asymmetric KMS key for use in your local applications, while the private portion never leaves the service.
 
You can also request the service to generate an asymmetric data key pair. This operation returns a plaintext copy of the public key and private key as well as a copy of the private key encrypted under a symmetric KMS key that you specify. You can use the plaintext public or private key in your local application and store the encrypted copy of the private key for future use.

* Asymmetric keys are not available in the AWS China (Beijing) Region, operated by Sinnet and the AWS China (Ningxia) Region, operated by NWCD.
** Asymmetric keys are not supported with the Custom Key Store option.

Compliance

Security and quality controls in AWS KMS have been validated and certified by compliance regimes including:

AWS Service Organization Controls (SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3) Reports.

PCI DSS Level 1.

FIPS 140-2. The AWS KMS cryptographic module is validated, or in the process of being validated, at FIPS 140-2 Level 2 overall with Level 3 for several other categories, including physical security

FedRAMP.

HIPAA. 

* FIPS 140-2 does not apply to AWS KMS in China regions. The hardware security modules in China regions are instead approved for use by the Chinese government.

Additional Information

For additional information about service controls, security features and functionalities, including, as applicable, information about storing, retrieving, modifying, restricting, and deleting data, please see https://docs.aws.amazon.com/index.html. This additional information does not form part of the Documentation for purposes of the AWS Customer Agreement available at http://aws.amazon.com/agreement, or other agreement between you and AWS governing your use of AWS’s services.