What Is a Key Management Service? Enterprise Key Management System vs Key Management System

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What is Key Management Service

A critical component of every security system is cryptography. They handle everything, including user identification, data encryption, and decryption.

Any cryptographic key compromise could end up in the complete security architecture of an organization collapsing, giving the attacker access to additional sources of classified information, the ability to decode confidential material, and the capability to authenticate as privileged users.

Fortunately, the security of private data may be guaranteed by appropriate key and component management. Setting up guidelines that ensure the confidentiality of cryptographic keys inside an organization is known as key Management.

Key Management pertains to the generation after generation, advancement, archiving, deletion, and renewal of keys.

To protect sensitive data’s security, reliability, and validity, a Key Management System (KMS) offers a centralized platform for developing, preserving, distributing, and revoking cryptographic keys.

An Enterprise-wide cryptographic Key Management System, or EKMS, is fully integrated. By using policies, processes, and cutting-edge technology, it successfully prevents unauthorized access to sensitive data.

The article will explore the Key Management System (KMS), and its working, difference between Enterprise Key Management Systems and Key Management Systems while emphasizing their unique characteristics.

What is a Key Management System (KMS)?

A cryptographic key management system (KMS) is designed to store, manage, and retrieve cryptographic keys securely and effectively. KMS supports different sorts of keys, varying from platform to platform.

You can typically handle one or more of the following secrets with most key management services: SSH key pairs, API keys, SSL certificate private keys, database encryption keys, document signing private keys, etc.

Consider Amazon Web Services (AWS) Key Management Service. To protect data stored in a range of AWS services, such as Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) and Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), users can generate and manage encryption keys with AWS Key Management Service (KMS). With AWS KMS, users could easily encrypt and decode their data while keeping total control over the keys.

Recommended: What Is AWS Cloud Security? Best Practices to Secure Amazon Web Services

The purpose of key management services is to assist you in preventing the loss or theft of keys, which might lead to a data breach, system outage, or data loss.

Although the features of various solutions varied slightly, the majority of key management services consist of at least one of the following characteristics – Such as an online interface to manage your private cryptography keys, protection, and replication of private keys, APIs, and plugins to allow the KMS to be integrated with your systems, applications, and servers.

The Working of Key Management

A lifecycle of processes known as key Management is required to guarantee that the key is generated, stored, used, and switched safely. Most cryptographic keys have a lifespan that includes key Generations, distribution, Applications, Storage, Rotation, Backup, Recovery, Revocation, and finally, destruction.

The initial stage in guaranteeing the security of a key is its generation. A harmful encryption technique might allow an intruder to determine the encryption key’s value if it were used to produce the key. 

A key that cannot be securely used for encryption may also be compromised immediately as it is generated if it is created in a hazardous environment. Most often, secure key creation is accomplished using key generators, random number generators, or AES encryption methods.

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Assuring the secure distribution of the keys is the next stage in the key lifecycle. To ensure the security of the keys being disseminated, they should be sent to the necessary user over a secure TLS or SSL connection.

The security of any data encrypted by cryptographic keys is compromised if an insecure connection is used to disseminate them, as an attacker may perform a man-in-the-middle attack and take the keys.

Once the key has been distributed, cryptographic operations are performed with it. As mentioned before, to ensure that the key is not duplicated, abused, or used by unauthorized individuals, those authorized should use it.

Data must be kept for eventual decryption after the key has been used to encrypt it. The most secure approach is using a Hardware Security Module (HSM) and CloudHSM. The keys can be effectively maintained on the client’s end if an HSM is not utilized, or they can be used in the cloud and managed via the Cloud Service Provider’s Key Management Service.

A key must be rotated once its crypto period—the amount of time it is usable—elapses. A key has been discarded and replaced with a fresh one when it expires for an encrypted data collection. The old key / key pair decrypts the data first, then the new key or key pair encrypts it afterward.

Rotation is required because there is an increased risk of theft or key discovery the more extended a key is in rotation. When a key is suspected of being compromised, it may rotate before the cryptoperiod ends.

Removing or deleting the hacked key is one of two more approaches to handle the situation. Even if a key’s cryptoperiod is still valid, revoking it renders it unusable for encryption or decryption of data.

A destroyed key—whether via compromise or because it is no longer in use—is permanently removed from any key management database or other type of storage. This implies that without using a backup image, it is impossible to regenerate the key.

According to NIST guidelines, deactivated keys must be stored in an archive to be reconstructed if the key or critical pair needed to unlock previously encrypted data is presently needed.

What is Key Management as a Service?

Data security and encryption depend significantly on key Management. Keys are necessary in cryptography to protect confidential data.

These keys are simply a string of letters or integers to encrypt and decrypt data and guarantee its secrecy and integrity. It can be complex and resource-intensive for organizations to manage these keys efficiently.

Key Management addresses the issues surrounding key Management as a Service (KMaaS), a contemporary approach. This cloud-based solution could safely manage and secure cryptographic keys by enterprises.

Cloud-based key Management as a service (KMaaS) reduces the workload of key Management on the user while providing several advantages like minimalism, adaptability, scalability, and improved security.

Key Management as a Service (KMaaS) entails an outside-party service provider’s administration of cryptographic keys. The organization may now concentrate on its primary business operations as the load associated with handling key Management internally is reduced.

The user may produce, manage, and control digital certificates and cryptographic keys using the KMaaS platform’s centralized dashboard.

Key Management Service Functions:

Key and metadata administration is facilitated by a Key Management System (KMS). Depending on your preferred platform and provider, it may be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. The aim of employing one of these systems is to keep all your cryptographic keys as safe as possible. Depending on the KMS you use, it accomplishes this in a few different ways:

They are helping you keep track of your keys. Since almost all KMSs depend on secure key storage, hardware security modules (HSMs) are a common component of these systems; more on that later.

If your keys are not kept safely, are lost, or are stolen, data breaches might happen.

Generating Data-protecting Secure Keys

You can create keys with adequate entropy (randomness) with the help of an efficient KMS. Each key comprises a series of hexadecimal characters; the more unpredictable the sequence, the more difficult it is to decipher. 

Providing you the Ability to See and Keep Track of Keys

With a KMS, you can find any key in your surroundings, even ones that weren’t made in the KMS. You can effectively manage your keys if you know what you have and where it is used.

Authorizing the Usage of Keys without Requiring Physical Access to Them

With specific key management systems, you may digitally sign documents with your keys without access to plaintext keys.

It gives you a Method for Archiving and Backing up Keys

You can automate key backups and escrows instead of attempting to manage them one at a time.

They are Facilitating the Granting of Permissions

Understanding who has access to what keys and why they are using them is essential to effective key Management.

Difference between Enterprise Key Management System Key Management System


KMS incorporation mainly relies on integrating with one or a small number of applications made to support it. One platform that uses a KMS to encrypt streaming material is a video streaming platform.

The KMS ensures that the encryption keys are transmitted and used securely across the streaming workflow, encompassing the media encoding computer systems, CDN, and video player through integration with the platform’s streaming infrastructure.

The broader scope of EKMS and the requirement to manage keys and protection objects across many applications and systems necessitate greater integration. The manufacturing sector could have systems for controlling access, inventory management software, and production control systems, among other uses.

Each system must be integrated with the EKMS to provide secure key distribution, appropriate encryption settings, and standard key management procedures for all applications.

Area of Application: 

Single or just a few of the apps’ keys are managed by KMS. To protect user-sent messages, a firm developing a messaging app, for instance, can utilize a KMS to generate and maintain encryption keys. To manage the messaging app, the KMS is responsible for key creation, storage, rotation, and other associated duties.

With several departments and software systems, an intricate organizational structure is home to an EKMS. It provides centralized administration and distribution of digital certificates, encryption keys, and other security entities for various systems and applications.


Large organizations have specialized and complicated security requirements, which EKMS is made to address.

A government organization, for instance, that must take precautions while handling sensitive data would put in place an Enterprise Key Management System (EMKMS) that enforces authentication using multiple factors, role-based permission, rigorous controls on access, etc.

Recommended: Understanding The Difference: Authentication vs. Authorization

With the help of these capabilities, the organization may monitor key usage, identify efforts by unauthorized users to access its systems, and have a tight security posture overall.


KMS has less adaptability than EKMS since it is usually designed and optimized for a single or group of related applications. The main goal is to offer a standardized key management system tailored to that application’s requirements.

More flexibility is available with EKMS. Customization and flexibility to various applications and systems are enabled, hence addressing an organization’s needs. Its structure can easily be expanded upon and used in various circumstances.

Wrap up!

Ensuring appropriate Management of your cryptographic vital lifecycles is crucial, regardless of whether you engage with a key management service provider or employ an internal key management platform.

Inadequate key Management incurs significant financial losses and harms your brand. For this reason, you must take some time right now to evaluate the essential management processes and tools your company now uses to make sure everything is in line.

In addition, based on an organization’s unique needs, KMS and EKMS both provide unique benefits. EKMS is the best option for managing keys & security objects across several applications and systems, whereas KMS is appropriate for one or a few applications.

EKMS is a powerful solution that requires more integration and tailoring than KMS because of its heightened security and versatility. The complexity and extent of an organization’s security requirements ultimately determine which of the two systems to choose, providing the best balance between Management and functionality.


What is an Enterprise Key Management System?

By making maintaining cryptographic keys easier, enterprise key Management allows security teams to progressively centralize encryption management throughout the organization, lowering the total ownership cost and risks.

For What Purpose is Critical Management used?

Defining guidelines to guarantee the Protection of cryptographic keys inside a company is known as key Management. The generation, exchange, preservation, deletion, and updating of keys are all covered under key Management. They also handle the members’ key access.

What Distinguishes HSM from Critical Management Services?

An HSM serves as the basis for the secure creation, storage, and use of cryptographic keys. In contrast, a key management system streamlines the administration of the entire key lifecycle following specific compliance requirements.

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a passionate Cyber-Security Enthusiast who keenly monitors the latest developments in the Web/Cyber Security industry. She puts her knowledge into practice and helps web users by arming them with the necessary security measures to stay safe in the digital world.