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Blog Security What Is Hashing Algorithm & How Does It Work?


June 28 2023


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What Is Hashing Algorithm & How Does It Work?

Hashing algorithms are essential tools in modern-day data security, used for various applications such as password storage and secure data transmission. But what exactly is a hashing algorithm, and how does it work? In this brief, we will explore the concept of hashing algorithms, their characteristics, and how they generate unique hash values for input data. By the end of this brief, you will have a fundamental understanding of hashing algorithms and their critical role in securing data.

What Is a Hashing Algorithm?

Hashing is the transformation of an array of input data of arbitrary length into an output bit string of a specified length. This generation process uses a set of hashing methods using mathematical algorithms (hash functions).

For blockchains and similar systems that carry out transactions to be able to maintain the integrity and reliable protection of data, it is cryptographic hashes that are used. It should be noted that not every hash algorithm uses cryptographic tools, but only a cryptographic hash function.

It should also be taken into account that all hash processes protected by cryptographic means give the same result when outputting data if the input remains the same. This property is called the determinism of the hash function.

The hashing algorithms for Bitcoin and other digital currencies have a unique feature. The received lines of information cannot be returned in the same direction unless a very large amount of time and resources are spent on this. This is because the processes that are carried out on cryptocurrency platforms are carried out only unilaterally.

That is, during a transaction, for example, the output of the initial data is performed quite quickly. But getting them back in reverse order will be extremely difficult. Therefore, the reliability of the hash function is determined by the difficulty of finding the original strings.

How Does a Hashing Algorithm Work?

Let’s see how this works with the example of the SHA-1 hash function, which is a very popular choice for hash security (as are SHA-2 and MD5). For this, we turn to any service that provides free online hashing service. Suppose we have the value “Alice” that needs to be converted to a digital code. The result will always be: “35318264c9a98faf79965c270ac80c5606774df1”. But if you make a mistake even in writing one letter or putting the name in a different number, the code will look completely different.

Let’s make sure of this and put the word in the plural. Input data: “Alices”. Hash code: “c0fed81671deb2f4830fea95fd8920204ab57d04”. As we can see, the final result has nothing to do with the previous one, although only one letter was added to the name. Note another important feature: if you change the capital letter to lowercase in the information that needs to be encrypted, you will also receive a completely new digital key. Input data: “alice”. Hash code: “522b276a356bdf39013dfabea2cd43e141ecc9e8″.

The only thing that the results above have in common is that the hash output is the same length – 40 characters. You might think that such a volume was determined by the number of letters in the input data: there are 6 of them in the name Alice. Even if the array consists of the entire text of the previous paragraph, the length of the hash data structure with the result will be the same, take a look: “1c0a8a3f35293169139b9d23cb571f60862ab0a2″.

What Are Hashing Algorithms Used for?

In addition to encrypting data on blockchains and various payment systems, the hashing function is used when compiling a hash table and a Cartesian tree.

Hash algorithms are used to compare the information. The essence of the process is that certain data are checked for their compliance with the original, and the original itself does not participate in this action. When comparing information, the identity of the hash values ​​is evaluated.

Hash algorithms are used to verify data integrity: modified data will not produce the same hash value. HMAC (hash-based message authentication codes) can use any cryptographic hash function and a secret cryptographic key to simultaneously verify both the data integrity and authenticity of a message. HMAC does not encrypt the message. Instead, the message (encrypted or not) must be sent alongside the HMAC hash. Parties with the secret key will hash the message again themselves, and if it is authentic, the received and computed hashes will match.

When filling in lines in the Infobase, it is possible to create hash tables from the stored names, so new data can be placed in sections according to the hash code. Then, to find the information you need, you just need to convert it to a hash, after which it will become clear in which section it is located. Thus, the search time is reduced: it will no longer be carried out in all sections, but only in the one that corresponds to the hash code of the information being sought.

Hashing Algorithm Examples

Here is an example of the operation of various hashing algorithms.

Input Phrase: Unique data for hash

Now let’s look at the results:

MD5: 114120139ad7a26a3503c7d49478399e

SHA-1: c11ebc71a487087ff2a009eb4cf54b4c075a3aa8

SHA2-224 7f22e8c48b830216c44a1f2c10ed52a00a22f8232a3fe507bab17e80:

The results of hashing algorithms differ in both length and value. 

Popular Hashing Algorithms Explained

For a better understanding of the possibilities of hashing, you can read a small overview of proven hashing methods:

MD5. 128-bit hashing algorithm. Designed to create checksums or message digests of arbitrary length and then determine their authenticity. It is also used to check the integrity of information and store passwords after hashing. The disadvantage of the program is weak protection against a cyberattack to find a collision.

SHA-1. This software produces a hash and encoding through data compression. Archiving inputs contain 512 bits of information. The number of rounds is 80. As a result of generation, a 32-bit hash code is obtained. 252 collisions were found in the program. It is mainly used in information systems of US government agencies.

SHA-2. Represents a family of one-way hash functions. The block size can be 512 or 1024 bits. The number of rounds is 64 or 80. There were no collisions during the program’s operation. The algorithms work on 32 bits.

Whirlpool. Whirlpool algorithm was created by Vincent Rijmen and Paulo S.L.M. Barreto and was first published in 2000 with further revisions. It was derived from Advanced Encryption Standard AES. It is a block cipher hash function designed after a square block cipher. It can take up to 2^256 bits length input and convert it in 512 bit hash.

Design of Hashing Algorithms

Currently, simple hash function algorithms do not always meet all the requirements for security. However, each developer should strive to achieve maximum compliance with these requirements:

Collision resistance

The term “collision” within the field of information systems means the formation of the same hash codes for two different input data. This phenomenon creates a risk that the fraudster will replace real information with false information.

Information recovery protection

To some extent, this means the same irreversibility. Theoretically, to establish the initial data, in addition to the inverse function, you can use the selection method. And full recovery protection means that even when trying to find out the primary data for a long time, the attacker still has no chance of success.

Resistance to detection of the 1st and 2nd preimage

The first preimage could be the key to finding the inverse function. But it will not be possible to trace it, since the cryptographic hash function leaves no traces. The second preimage is very similar to finding a collision. It differs only in that before searching for the second preimage, the hacker knows both the hash code and the original, and when trying to find a copy, he knows only the code. Therefore, the hash function is not immune to the intention to find the second preimage, since knowledge of the source makes it possible to change it.

What Makes a Strong Hash Algorithm (Hash Function)

The following features of the cryptographic secure hash algorithm are distinguished:

Irrevocability. All attempts to extract the input data after hashing are doomed to failure since most of the information is lost during the conversion to code (as opposed to conventional encryption).

Predestination. When you enter the same information to perform a hash function, the resulting value will always be the same. This makes it possible to verify the authenticity of the available data using a hash.

Uniqueness. Potentially, a hash function can always return a unique code. But so far this has not been implemented in practice, and occasionally there are “collisions” – the same value for different data. However, the quality of the hash reduces the risk of copying to a minimum. A double hashing in hash tables can be used to resolve hash collisions, by using a secondary hash of the key as an offset when a collision occurs.

Manifold. Even if two separate data are slightly different (for example, uppercase and uppercase letters), the result will be two completely different codes.

Great conversion speed. It is typical for all hash functions: compared to standard file encryption, hashing generates values ​​much faster, regardless of the amount of source data.

The purpose of each hash function is to protect users from identity theft. Authorization in personal accounts and verification of the entered words with the original is necessary to maintain the confidentiality of data, which is usually vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

4 Ways Your Company Can Use Hashing Algorithms to Secure Data

Hashing algorithms are designed to generate unique hash values for input data, providing a way to validate and identify data without compromising its confidentiality. In this part of the article, we will explore four ways your company can use hashing algorithms to secure data, including ensuring data integrity in SSL/TLS handshake, securely storing user passwords, assuring data integrity in emails and messaging apps, and ensuring file integrity assurance through code signing certificates and digital signatures.

Ensures Data Integrity in SSL/TLS Handshake

Hashing algorithms are vital for ensuring data integrity during the SSL/TLS handshake. By generating a unique hash value for each handshake message, these algorithms allow both parties to verify the authenticity and integrity of the transmitted data. This helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and ensures that the communication is secure. Implementing hashing algorithms in the SSL/TLS handshake is a crucial step in securing your company’s data

Allows Users to Securely Store Their Passwords on Your Site

Using hashing algorithms to store user passwords is a common practice in web development. By hashing the passwords and storing the hash values instead of the plaintext passwords, you can protect user data even in case of a data breach. Hashed passwords are also one-way, meaning that it’s virtually impossible to reverse-engineer the original passwords from the hash values. This ensures that users’ passwords are secure and that your company is not storing sensitive data in plaintext.

Assures Data Integrity in Emails & Messaging Apps

Hashing algorithms can also be used to assure data integrity in emails and messaging apps. By hashing the message content and attaching the hash value to the message, the recipient can verify that the message has not been tampered with during transmission. This is especially important for sensitive messages, such as those containing financial or personal information. Implementing hashing algorithms in emails and messaging apps can help ensure the security and privacy of your company’s data.

Ensures File Integrity Assurance Through Code Signing Certificates & Digital Signatures

Hashing algorithms are also used for file integrity assurance through code-signing certificates and digital signatures. By hashing the file contents and encrypting the hash value with a private key, a digital signature is created. This signature can then be used to verify the integrity and authenticity of the file by anyone with access to the corresponding public key. This ensures that the file has not been tampered with and that it came from a trusted source. Implementing digital signatures in your company’s software development process can help protect against malicious attacks and ensure the integrity of your code.


Hashing algorithms are an essential tool for securing data in various applications. By generating unique hash values for input data, these algorithms provide a way to validate and identify data without compromising its confidentiality. Implementing hashing algorithms can help ensure data integrity, protect sensitive information, and prevent malicious attacks, making it a crucial element of modern-day data security. Helenix develops cryptographic solutions for a wide variety of business needs. You can learn more about our competencies in the Custom Development section.


No, Advanced Encryption Standard AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm used for secure data transmission. AES uses a secret key to encrypt and decrypt data, making it an essential component of modern-day cryptography.

The four common hashing algorithms are MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, and SHA-512. These algorithms generate unique hash values for input data, ensuring data integrity and security.

The best hashing algorithm depends on the specific use case and security requirements. Currently, SHA-256 is widely considered one of the most secure and efficient hashing algorithms.

No, hashing and encryption have their own differences. Rivest–Shamir–Adleman RSA is an asymmetric encryption algorithm used for secure data transmission and digital signatures. RSA uses a public key to encrypt data and a private key to decrypt it.

There are two main types of hashing: cryptographic hashing and non-cryptographic hashing. Cryptographic hashing is used for secure data transmission, while non-cryptographic hashing is used for tasks such as indexing and searching data.