220.127.116.11 Hardware vs. Software
Keys can be stored using hardware and software protection mechanisms.
A software device might be something as simple as a text file maintained by a user, which contains his private keys, decrypted as needed to obtain the appropriate private key. Or it might be a key management database specifically intended for the centralized storage and retrieval of keys.
A hardware device for key storage might either:
Store the key itself (for instance, a smart card which can be read by an appropriate reader when a PIN is provided)
Not store the key at all (just an algorithm for generating a key based on the input of a user-provided pass phrase or PIN number).
One example of a device used for storing keys is nShield by nCipher404. In addition to providing secure storage and management of keys, it also provides for hardware-based cryptography, freeing servers from having to do those computations on the main CPU.
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