A cryptographic hash (sometimes called ‘digest’) is a kind of ‘signature’ for a text or a data file. SHA-256 generates an almost-unique 256-bit (32-byte) signature for a text. See below for the source code.
A hash is not ‘encryption’ – it cannot be decrypted back to the original text (it is a ‘one-way’ cryptographic function, and is a fixed size for any size of source text). This makes it suitable when it is appropriate to compare ‘hashed’ versions of texts, as opposed to decrypting the text to obtain the original version. Such applications include stored passwords, challenge handshake authentication, and digital signatures.
SHA-256 is one of the successor hash functions to SHA-1 (collectively referred to as SHA-2), and is one of the strongest hash functions available. While SHA-1 has not been compromised in real-world conditions, SHA-256 is not much more complex to code, and has not yet been compromised in any way. The 256-bit key makes it a good partner-function for AES. It is defined in the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) standard ‘FIPS 180-2’. NIST also provide a number of test vectors to verify correctness of implementation. There is a good description at Wikipedia.
This script is oriented toward hashing text messages rather than binary data. The standard considers hashing byte-stream (or bit-stream) messages only. Text which contains (multi-byte) characters outside ISO 8859-1 (i.e. accented characters outside Latin-1 or non-European character sets – anything with Unicode code-point above U+FF), can’t be encoded 4-per-word, so the script defaults to encoding the text as UTF-8 before hashing it.
Notes on the implementation of the preprocessing stage:
M[N-1] = ((msg.length-1)*8) >>> 32;
M[N-1] = ((msg.length-1)*8) & 0xffffffff;
Note that what is returned is the textual hexadecimal representation of the binary hash. This can be useful for instance for storing hashed passwords, but if you want to use the hash as a key to an encryption routine, for example, you will want to use the binary value not this textual representation.
Using IE on a 1GHz PIII machine, this script will process the message at a speed of around ????kb/sec.
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© 2005-2014 Chris Veness