Nist makes a hash of digital signatures

Nist makes a hash of digital signatures

Organisation calls for improved algorithm

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist) has launched a competition to develop a new cryptographic 'hash' algorithm.

The algorithm converts a file, message or block of data into a short 'fingerprint' for use in digital signatures, message authentication and other computer security applications.

Nist's competition is in response to recent advances in the analysis of hash algorithms.

The winning entry will be called Secure Hash Algorithm-3 (SHA-3) and will augment the hash algorithms currently specified in the Federal Information Processing Standard (Fips) 180-2 Secure Hash Standard.

Nist's goal is that SHA-3 will provide increased security and greater efficiency for applications using cryptographic hash algorithms.

Fips standards are required for use in Federal civilian computer systems and are often adopted voluntarily by private industry.

"Fips 180-2 specifies five cryptographic hash algorithms, including SHA-1 and the SHA-2 family," the organisation stated.

"Serious attacks have been reported in recent years against cryptographic hash algorithms, including SHA-1.

"Because SHA-1 and the SHA-2 family share a similar design, Nist has decided to standardise an additional hash algorithm to augment the ones currently specified in FIPS 180-2."