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Contrary to your assumption, this is done, and it is secure: For instance, the hash functions SHA-224 and SHA-384 are basically the same algorithms as SHA-256 and SHA-512! The only differences are in the initial values for the Merkle-Damgård construction used internally and, of course, in that only the first $224$ or $384$ bits of the resulting hash are ...


A length extension attack doesn't let you find a collision. It lets you predict the hash for an input with an unknown component in the prefix. If you have $h = H(x)$ for unknown (or partially unknown) $x$, you can generate $h_y = H(x \vert\vert y)$ for arbitrary $y$ (this is not strictly correct; I've ignored padding, but for the purposes of this discussion ...


No, there is no known way. It would actually be rather surprising if there were even a theoretical way; the SHA-256 and the SHA-512 compression functions are rather different (for one, one works with 32 bit words and the other works with 64 bit words); one wouldn't expect them to share any sort of relation.


This answers a comment to Stephen Touset's fine answer. With SHA-256, or any collision-resistant hash, no known attack (including length extension) allows producing a file different from the original file and that has the same hash as the original, even if an adversary could choose the original. Even with the practically-broken MD5, or the broken SHA-1, no ...

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