Encrypting/decrypting large amounts of data in parallel using GnuPG with a HSM ?

Aleksander Adamowski gnupg at olo.org.pl
Wed Apr 28 16:52:51 CEST 2010

Does anyone here on the list have experience with encrypting large
files with GnuPG using a private key stored on HSM, with many
encryptions going on in parallel?

As far as I understand:
1) unless the --symmetric option is employed, data encryption employs
a randomly generated one time symmetric key, which is encrypted by
recipient's public key. Data decryption obtains the symmetric key
embedded in the message and decrypts it using the private key - this
is the step where a SmartCard or HSM can be potentially employed
2) If the --symmetric option is used, symmetric data encryption using
a password-based key is used and no SmartCard nor HSM can be employed.
3) SmartCards / HSMs must employ the OpenPGP standard
4) PKCS#11 interface to HSMs is not supported by the official GnuPG
distribution due to personal options of Werner Koch, but an
independent SmartCard daemon has been developed:

>From looking at that standard mentioned in 3), it seems to me that the
only way to use hardware assisted encryption and key management by the
official GnuPG is through the use of SmartCard devices.

As far as I understand, SmartCards generally don't support
multithreading or parallel processing, and any cryptographic
operations involving them must be carried out sequentially.

In the crypto security world of financial institutions, when massive
amounts of crypto operations are to be performed in parallel, usually
HSMs from companies like Thales or SafeNet are employed, and PKCS#11
is the usual programming interface of choice in accessing them. This
handles massive amounts of parallel cryptographic operations

Keeping that in mind, did anyone try to use GnuPG in a massively
parallel crypto processing scenario with hardware assisted decryption?

How did you accomplish that?
Did you go the OpenPGP card way (e.g. a massive array of redundant
SmartCards?) or the PKCS#11 way (which vendor's HSMs did you use?)?
What performance did you get out of your setup (number of parallel
encryptions/decryptions, number of decryptions/second, data file sizes

Best Regards,
 Aleksander Adamowski

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