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Choose Password Hashing Algorithm


The goal of a strong password strategy is to mitigate data breaches in the application. The essence of authentication is to provide users with a set of credentials (username and password) and then check whether they are providing it correctly or not. But if these passwords get breached, it hampers the organization's reputation. That is where password hashing comes into role. This blog will take you on a journey of some of the most widely used hashing techniques from where you can choose your password hashing algorithm.

What is Hashing?

According to the English dictionary, hashing refers to chopping or cutting something into tiny pieces so that the thing turns out to be a complete mess. It resembles the same for computers also. Hashing is a one-way encryption technique where users cannot reverse engineer the hashed value to bring the original data. The widespread use of hashing is in password storage, secure communication between two parties, PIN code protection, etc.

All hashing techniques use a mathematical algorithm known as the hash function that maps data of any size to a bit string of a fixed size. These functions take the user's message or password as input. The hashing algorithm converts it into a fixed-size output is known as the hash or the message digest. Some commonly used password hashing algorithms are SHA-1, SHA-2, MD5, scrypt, SHA-256, bcrypt, Whirlpool, etc. The security community treats hashing as the foundation of secure password storage. Therefore, developers should wisely pick the hashing algorithm before storing passwords into the database systems.

Which password hashing algorithm to choose?

From the developer's and the software architect's perspectives, paying attention to the password storing technique is essential. Even the big players on the web have sub-par standards of password storing. That is where developers need to have a clear idea of which hashing system is robust and more efficient in storing passwords. Most of the modern programming languages support these hashing libraries. Here are the details of some of the most popular hashing algorithms.

1. Message Digest 5: MD5 is an advanced form of MD4, which generates 128-bit outputs for a variable length of inputs. It is a widely used password hashing algorithm but is prone to collision and new vulnerability.

2. Secure Hashing Algorithm: National Security Agency developed SHA and is a developer-friendly algorithm. Many organizations and software development firms use SHA-256 and SHA-512 to preserve their passwords in hashed form.

3. Bcrypt: It is another robust hashing algorithm based on the Blowfish cipher. It adds salt to shield against rainbow table attacks. Iterating it multiple times makes it immune to brute-force search attacks even with improving computation power.

4. Scrypt: Scrypt is a password-based key-derivation function. The intention of its development was mainly to make it expensive to perform large-scale custom hardware attacks. Later, developers started using it in password hashing also.

Here is a logarithmic bar graph where you can witness the time taken by the brute force technique on the password hashing algorithms to break using the NVIDIA Quadro M2000M GPU.

Wrapping up

Modern hashing algorithms like bcrypt and scrypt are secure. Therefore, developers and software architects should leverage them while developing web applications and other software products for preserving user passwords. In addition, developers should also include encrypting data at rest or in transit. Putting all these state-of-the-art security postures can minimize data breaches to a significant level.If you want to learn more about such concepts and the details about cybersecurity and privacy, grab the book today...Read Now

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