Commerce OKs new hashing standard for message authentication

Commerce OKs new hashing standard for message authentication

The Commerce Department has approved a new secure hashing standard that adds three algorithms to produce longer hashes'or message digests'for digital signatures and message authentication.

Federal Information Processing Standard 180-2 replaces FIPS 180-1 and will become mandatory for use with sensitive but unclassified information when it takes effect Feb. 1. The SHA-1 algorithm specified in FIPS 180-1, which produces a 160-bit message digest, is one of the algorithms included in the new standard, so products certified as meeting FIPS 180-1 requirements still can be used after January.

Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the new standard, which includes algorithms that produce 256-bit, 384-bit and 512-bit message digests.

A hashing algorithm is a program that produces a series of digits when run on a document. It is 'computationally infeasible to find two different messages that produce the same message digest,' according to NIST. Any change in the document will produce a different digest'or hash'when checked, revealing that a document has been altered.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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