Secure Hash Algorithms Explained

On your journey across the world of cybersecurity, you’ve probably come across the phrase “Secure Hashing Algorithm” at some point. To satisfy your natural inquisitiveness, let’s spend some time today learning about the Secure Hash Algorithm, also known as SHA.

The term “hashing” refers to a cryptographic procedure that is used to validate the legitimacy of a number of different inputs. In addition to this, it can be used to check the authenticity of your files, documents, and other forms of data that are floating around on the internet.

Hashing is a mathematical algorithm that, in layman’s terms, refers to the process of determining whether or not the data you have received comes from a legitimate source. In addition, they are utilized in various coding languages, SSL certificates, and passwords, among other applications.

Hashing functions, when used improperly, could potentially result in catastrophic data breaches. On the other hand, not making use of them at all may result in more damage.

The ‘Hashes’ that are generated through the process of hashing are used to validate the authenticity of the data that you have been given. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at these hashes right now.

Secure Hashing Algorithm is the abbreviation for SHA. The abbreviation SHA refers to the secure hashing algorithm. Data and certificates can be hashed using SHA, which is a version of MD5 that has been modified. Utilizing techniques such as bitwise operations, modular additions, and compression functions, a hashing algorithm condenses the input data into a more manageable format that cannot be deciphered. You might be curious about whether or not hashing can be broken or decrypted. The only fundamental difference between hashing and encryption is that hashing is one-way, which means that once the data is hashed and secured, the resulting hash digest can’t be cracked without using a brute force attack.

The Secure Hashing Algorithm (SHA) has been chosen as the appropriate cryptographic algorithm for use with digital signatures in this context. To keep your data safe, it uses something called the “PKI mechanism.” It generates a one-of-a-kind hash in a format that is indecipherable. This is done to ensure that your data is protected and cannot be hacked.

In addition, when it comes to symmetric cryptography, SHA can make use of MD5, SHA 1, or SHA 256. Hash values are generated by them so that data can be encrypted and decrypted securely.

The Most Notable Hash Functions

● MD5

The Message-Digest Algorithm (also known as MD5) is a cryptographic function that only works in one direction. It takes an input of any length and produces an output of a predetermined length but accepts input of any length. The MD5 has been rendered obsolete. This is because those who specialize in security have demonstrated methods that prove their unreliability.

● SHA 1

SHA 1 is the name of a cryptographic hash function that takes information as its input and generates a hash value with 160 bits as its output. In addition to this, they transform themselves into a hexadecimal number that is forty digits long. Additionally, it is the one that comes after SH0.

● SHA 2

SHA-1’s successor is called SHA 2, which follows a similar pattern. The United States Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released SHA-2 as a federal standard in the United States (FIPS). It was originally conceived as a “family” of hashes and is available in many different dimensions. The SHA-256 hashing algorithm is currently the most widely used of all the different lengths.

There is a great deal of confusion brought on by the various expressions of the SHA2 hashes. Alternate bit lengths of the same SHA 2 Family are referred to by the terms “SHA-2,” “SHA-256” or “SHA-256 bit,”, “SHA-224,” “SHA-384,” and “SHA-512.”

What Applications of SHA Exist, and Why They Do So

As previously mentioned, Secure Hashing Algorithms (SHAs) are required in all digital signatures and certificates for SSL/TLS connections; however, SHAs also have a variety of other applications. SHAs are also utilized by Secure Shell (SSH), S-MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions), and Internet Protocol Security (IPSec). SHAs are also used to hash passwords, which allows the server to remember only the hashes and not the actual passwords. If an attacker stole the database containing all hashes, they would not have direct access to the plaintext passwords. Instead, they would need to devise a method for decrypting the hashes before they could use the passwords. This would make the attack more difficult. SHAs are also capable of serving as indicators of a file’s integrity. If a file is modified during transfer, the hash digest that is generated by the hash function will not be identical to the hash digest that was initially generated and sent by the file’s owner.

We are now aware of the applications of SHAs; however, why should one make use of a Secure Hash Algorithm in the first place?

Their ability to repel attackers is one of the most prevalent explanations. Despite the fact that certain techniques, such as brute-force attacks, can reveal the plaintext of hash digests, SHAs make it extremely difficult for these strategies to succeed. A password hashed with SHA-2 could take years or even decades to decrypt, wasting resources and time on a simple password. This could deter many possible attackers from attempting to crack the password. The uniqueness of each hash digest is an additional argument in favor of using SHAs. If SHA-2 is employed, there will likely be very few or no collisions, meaning that changing even a single word in a message will result in a significant change in the resulting hash digest. An attacker will not be able to identify a pattern that will make it easier for them to crack the Secure Hashing Algorithm because there are very few or no collisions. These are only some among the plethora of reasons why SHA is used so frequently.

The Path Forward for Hashing

At this point in time, the SHA-2 hashing algorithm is considered to be the industry standard; however, it is possible that SHA-3 will soon surpass SHA-2. The NIST, the same organization that developed SHA-1 and SHA-2, published SHA-3 in 2015; however, for various reasons, it was not adopted as the industry standard. The majority of businesses were in the process of switching from SHA-1 to SHA-2 when SHA-3 was released; consequently, it would not have made sense for them to immediately switch to SHA-3 while SHA-2 was still a very secure hashing algorithm. In addition to this, it was thought that SHA-3 was slower than SHA-2, despite the fact that this is not exactly the case. SHA-3 is slower when it comes to the software side of things, but when it comes to the hardware side, it is much faster than SHA-1 and SHA-2, and it is getting faster every year. Because of these factors, the transition from SHA-2 to SHA-3 is likely to take place in the not-too-distant future once SHA-2 is deemed to be unsafe or deprecated.

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