Securing Data and Digital Credentials with Hashing

Securing Data and Digital Credentials

Hashing is an algorithm hack implemented on data to develop a number called a “hash”. At times referred to as “checksum”, hashing identifies whether the data has been tampered with or not. In simpler words, hashing helps verify if the data retains its integrity. What is worth noting about hashing is that a hash will remain the same regardless of the number of times you execute the hashing against the data, provided the data is the same as well.

To illustrate, consider a scenario where a software company releases a patch for its downloadable application. They employ hashing techniques not once, but twice in this process.

Initially, the company calculates the hash of the patch and shares both the patch file link and its corresponding hash on their official website. This is how they might present it:

The Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1) checksum, represented in hexadecimal, serves as the calculated hash. Users can download the file and perform a hash calculation on their downloaded copy. If the resulting hash matches the one posted on the website, it confirms the file’s integrity remains intact, meaning it has not been altered. This approach exemplifies the significance of hashing in ensuring the security of digital assets.

Hashing Algorithms:

– The MD5 Algorithm

One of the prominent hashing algorithms is MD5. MD5, short for Message Digest 5, is widely recognized for generating a 128-bit hash. Instead of presenting hashes as a series of 1s and 0s, they are conventionally exhibited in hexadecimal format. In the case of MD5, it manifests as 32 hexadecimal characters, encompassing the numbers 0 through 9 and the characters “a” through “f”.

– SHA Algorithm

SHA manifests itself in four distinct lineages: SHA-0, SHA-1, SHA-2, and SHA-3. SHA-0, a relic of the past, has faded into obscurity. SHA-1, its successor, generates 160-bit hashes, resembling the MD5 hash but with more bits.

SHA-2, a robust lineage, comprises SHA-256 (256-bit), SHA-512 (512-bit), and their truncated versions, SHA-224 and SHA-384.

SHA-3, evolving from a non-NSA competition, matches SHA-2’s hash sizes, ranging from 224 to 512 bits. These algorithms form the bedrock of cybersecurity.

– HMAC Algorithm

To safeguard data integrity in cybersecurity, Hash-based Message Authentication Code (HMAC) plays a crucial role. Unlike standard hashing techniques like MD5 and SHA-1 (referred to as HMAC-MD5 and HMAC-SHA1), HMAC enhances security by using a secret key known only to the sender and receiver. This secret key adds an element of unpredictability to the process.

Imagine one server sending a message to another using HMAC-MD5. It starts by hashing the message with MD5 and then applying a secret key for additional computation. The server sends both the message and HMAC-MD5 hash to the second server, which repeats the process and compares the received hash to its own. If the hashes match, the message maintains integrity; if not, integrity is compromised.


RIPEMD, a vital tool in the realm of cybersecurity, serves the purpose of hashing to ensure data integrity. Unlike the more commonly employed MD5, SHA, and HMAC algorithms, RIPEMD takes a distinct approach to securing information.

File Hashing in Cybersecurity

Applications use hashes for tasks like digital signatures in email, enhancing security. Manual hashing options, like sha1sum.exe, are readily available to all. These tools employ the SHA-1 hashing algorithm, generating unique file hashes.

Hashing is a one-way process. You can hash a file or message but can’t reverse it. Hashes are fixed-size, concealing file details.

Example: The SHA-1 hash for “I will pass the Security+ exam” is 765591c4611be5e03bea41882ffdaa159352cf49. It reveals nothing about the original message.

Securing Digital Credentials

Digital credentials are commonly safeguarded through the application of hashing techniques in the realm of cybersecurity. When users establish new passwords, the system executes a hashing algorithm to transform the password into a unique hash value. This hash is then securely stored. Later, during the authentication process, when users input their username and password, the system again applies hashing to the entered password and subsequently compares it with the stored hash. A match between the two hash values confirms the accuracy of the entered password, highlighting the crucial role of hashing in cybersecurity practices.

Cybersecurity Through Key Stretching

Key stretching, a critical element of cybersecurity, strengthens defenses against brute force and rainbow table attacks when securing stored passwords. This technique harnesses hashing, exemplified by bcrypt and PBKDF2.

Bcrypt, built upon the potent Blowfish cipher, secures Unix and Linux passwords by salting them with random bits before hashing. Iterating this process results in a 60-character string, resilient against cyber threats.

Consider the password IL0ve$ecurity. An application employs bcrypt and a random salt to hash it, resulting in a securely stored value like this: $2b$12$HXIKtJr93DH59BzzKQhehOI9pGjRA/03ENcFRby1jH7nXwt1Tn0kG.

During user authentication, the application rehashes the provided password and compares it to the stored hash. If they match, authentication succeeds.

To enhance security further, a separate set of random bits, known as “pepper,” can be added to the salt.

PBKDF2, a key player in modern cybersecurity, employs hashing with at least 64-bit salts and a pseudo-random function, such as HMAC, to enhance password security. It’s widely utilized in systems like WPA2, Apple’s iOS, and Cisco OS to bolster password protection. Some applications iterate the PBKDF2 process up to a million times, resulting in hashes typically ranging from 128 to 512 bits.

However, security experts raise concerns about PBKDF2’s vulnerability to brute force attacks. To address this, the Password Hashing Competition (PHC) evaluated 24 hashing algorithms and selected Argon2 in 2015 as the superior choice over legacy methods like PBKDF2. This decision represents a significant step forward in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity with Arrant Services

In the world of cybersecurity, hashing plays a crucial role in ensuring data integrity and securing digital credentials. From the strength of SHA and HMAC to the sophistication of bcrypt and PBKDF2, the realm of hashing is diverse and dynamic.

In this digital protection sphere, Arrant Services stands out as the premier provider of hashing solutions. With a strong commitment to innovation and security, Arrant Services leads in safeguarding valuable digital assets. Trust Arrant Services to keep your data and credentials secure through the power of hashing as the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve.

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