I'm implementing the HASH_DRBG algorithm. As per NIST-SP800 90 document for HASH DRBG Generation, section 10.4.1 "Derivation Function Using a Hash Function (Hash_df)", the Hash_df algorithm contains this step 4.1:

temp = temp || Hash (counter || no_of_bits_to_return || input_string).

I believe || here represents "append" operation. According to the algorithm, do I have to make the append operation and hashing on an ASCII hex string or a binary string?

Example, I can do Hash ("000102030405060708090A0B0C0D0E0F101112131415161718191A1B1") where the input is ASCII string characters. Or I can do Hash(&bytearray) where bytearray stores the non-ASCII numbers in binary?

Which one is expected as per the algorithm? I am planning to use SHA-1 or SHA-256 as Hash here.

  • $\begingroup$ I am answering my own question. It is binary (I dont have sufficient privileges to give answer to own question). $\endgroup$ – Lunar Mushrooms Dec 9 '11 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ New users have to wait 8 hours before answering their own question. This is intended to prevent question clarifications as answers, but sometime also hits innocent users. Just get to 100 rep and this limitation will be lifted. $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 10 '11 at 13:40

In step 4.1 of the algorithm:

  • Counter is expected to be a 1 byte binary value
  • no_of_bits_to_return is a 4 byte bigendian binary value
  • input_string is a variable length binary value
  • $||$ is concatination (just like you guessed)

So, Hash(&bytearray) would be appropriate.

The trickiest part is the 'no_of_bits_to_return' -- that's bigendian (and so a value of 24 would be represented by the four bytes 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x18), which is the opposite of how the most common processors internally represent a 4 byte value.

Now, if you were to convert to (say) ASCII hex first, well, it probably won't affect the security of the algorithm; however, it won't be the HASH_DRBG algorithm, but something else.


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