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Table of contents
Features of Hash Functions
Properties of Hash Functions
Designing of Hashing Algorithm
Famous Hash Functions
Applications of Hash Functions
Password Storage
Data Integrity Check
Key Takeaways
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Cryptography Hash Function

Author Rajat Agrawal
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In today's computation-based world, security is one of the essential aspects. 

Cryptography can keep the confidentiality and security of both data in transit and data at rest. In our day-to-day lives, the use of cryptography is everywhere. For example, we use cryptography to securely send passwords over vast networks for online purchases. 

Hash functions in cryptography are highly valuable and may be found in practically every application that deals with information security.

The Hash function in Cryptography is an algorithm that receives any amount of data input and produces a constant length output of encrypted text known as a hash value or hash. That encrypted text can then be saved in place of the password and used to verify the person later.

Let’s learn about Hash Functions in-depth.

Recommended Topic - hash function in data structure

Features of Hash Functions

The Hash function in cryptography is an algorithm that receives any amount of data input and produces a constant length encrypted text output. The encrypted output text is known as a hash value or hash

Some of the essential features of Hash Functions are:-

1.) The hash function converts data of any arbitrary length to a fixed length. This process is known as hashing the data.

2.) Generally, the hash is smaller than the input data; hence hash functions are sometimes also known as compression functions.

3.) Since a hash is a miniature representation of extensive data, it is also known as a digest.

4.) Hash function having n-bit output is known as an n-bit hash function. Famous hash functions generate values between 160 and 512 bits.

5.) Hash functions are much faster than symmetric encryption in terms of computation.

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Properties of Hash Functions

The hash function should have the following properties to be an effective cryptographic tool:-

1.) Pre-Image Resistance: This property signifies that it should be computationally tough to reverse a hash function. It will protect against a hacker who only has a hash value and is trying to find the input.

2.) Second Pre-Image Resistance: This property signifies that if the input and its hash are given, it should be tough to find a different input with the same hash. It protects against a hacker with an input value and its hash and wants to replace the original input value with another legitimate value.

3.) Collision Resistance: This property signifies that it should be tougher to find two different inputs of arbitrary length that will result in the same hash value. This property is known as a collision-free hash function. This property will create many difficulties for a hacker to find two input values with the same hash. 

Designing of Hashing Algorithm

A mathematical function that operates on two fixed-size data blocks to create a hash code lies at the core of hashing. Part of the hashing algorithm is this hash function.

Depending on the algorithm, the size of each data block varies. Block sizes generally range from 128 to 512 bits. 

The hash function is demonstrated in the diagram below:

Like a block cipher, the hashing method uses rounds of the hash function, as mentioned earlier. Each round accepts a fixed-size input, which is usually a combination of the most recent message block and the previous round's output.

This procedure is repeated as many times as necessary to hash the entire message.

The following diagram shows a schematic of the hashing algorithm:

As a result, the first message block's hash value becomes an input to the second hash operation, whose output changes the result of the third operation, and so on. This is known as the Avalanche effect of hashing.

When two messages differ by even a single bit of data, the avalanche effect results in significantly differing hash values.

Realize the difference between a hash function and an algorithm correctly. The hash function generates a hash code by working on two blocks of fixed-length binary data.

The hashing algorithm specifies how the message will be broken up and how the results from previous message blocks will be linked together when using the hash function.

Famous Hash Functions

Some of the famous Hash Functions are:-

1.) Message Digest (MD): MD2, MD4, MD5, and MD6 are hash functions in the MD family.  It's a hash function with a 128-bit length. MD5 was the most popular and commonly used hash function for many years. MD5 digests are widely used in the software industry to ensure the integrity of transferred files. MD5 was discovered to have collisions in 2004. Using a computer cluster, an analytical attack was reported to be successful in less than an hour. Because of the compromised MD5 resulting from the collision attack, it is no longer recommended for use.

2.) Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA): SHA-0, SHA-1, SHA-2, and SHA-3 are the four SHA algorithms that make up the SHA family. Despite being from the same family, they are structurally distinct. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published the original version of SHA-0, a 160-bit hash function, in 1993. It had few flaws and did not gain widespread popularity. Later in 1995, SHA-1 was created to address SHA-0's reported faults. Of the available SHA hash functions, SHA-1 is the most extensively used. It's utilized in various popular applications and protocols, including the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security protocol. The Keccak algorithm was chosen as the new SHA-3 standard by the NIST in October 2012. Keccak has several advantages, including efficient performance and strong assault resistance.

3.) RIPEMD: RIPEMD is an acronym for RACE Integrity Primitives Evaluation Message Digest. The open research community created this family of hash functions known as the European hash functions family. RIPEMD, RIPEMD-128, and RIPEMD-160 are included in the collection. This method is also available in 256 and 320-bit versions. The original RIPEMD (128 bit) is built on the same design ideas as MD4 and has been found to be insecure. The 128-bit version of RIPEMD was released as a rapid repair to address vulnerabilities in the original RIPEMD. RIPEMD-160 is the most frequently used and enhanced form of the family. Compared to RIPEMD-128 and RIPEMD-160, the 256 and 320-bit variants lessen the likelihood of an accidental collision but do not provide improved levels of security.

4.) Whirlpool: It is a 512-bit hash function. It's based on a modified version of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Whirlpool is available in three versions: WHIRLPOOL-0, WHIRLPOOL-T, and WHIRLPOOL.

Applications of Hash Functions

Based on its cryptographic features, a hash function has two direct uses:

Password Storage

Password storage is protected using hash functions. Rather than saving passwords in plain text, most login processes save hash values of passwords in a file. A table of pairs in the format (user id, h(P)) makes up the Password file. Even if he accessed the password, an intruder could only read the hashes of passwords. He can't use the hash to log in, and he can't deduce the password from the hash value because the hash function has the property of pre-image resistance.

Data Integrity Check

The most general use of hash functions is to verify data integrity. Checksums on data files are generated with it. This application gives the user assurance that the data is correct. The integrity check aids the user in detecting any modifications to the original file. It does not, however, guarantee that the work is unique. Instead of changing file data, the hacker can change the entire file and compute a new hash before sending it to the recipient. This integrity testing tool is only helpful if the user is certain of the file's uniqueness.


1.) What is Hash Function?

Ans. The Hash function in cryptography is an algorithm that receives any amount of data input and produces a constant length encrypted text output. The encrypted output text is known as a hash value or hash. 

2.) List some of the famous Hash Functions.

Ans. Some famous hash functions are Message Digest, Secure Hash Algorithm, RIPEMD, etc.

3.) List any two applications of hash functions.

Ans. Password Storage and Data Integrity Check are two applications of hash functions. 

Key Takeaways

In this article, we have extensively discussed the Cryptography Hash Function, features of hash functions, and applications of the hash functions.

We hope that this blog has helped you enhance your knowledge regarding Cryptography. If you want to learn more, check out our articles on the Difference Between Cryptography And Cyber Security and Cyber Security

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