Suppose a hash function like SHA-1 has known collision attacks (including chosen-prefix collision attacks) but no known preimage attacks.

Does that mean there are no known attacks against using it in a signature scheme, under these assumptions:

  • I'm signing data by taking the SHA-1 hash and then using a public-key signing scheme to sign the hash (and assume the public-key signing scheme is not broken)
  • I salt the data before taking the hash, and then sign the salt along with the hash (so if the attacker tries a "chosen-prefix collision attack", where they have a 'good' document and an 'evil' document with the same SHA-1 hash value and they want me to sign the 'good' document, the salt will prevent that attack from working)

I don't understand why that would be considered unsafe if the only known attacks against SHA-1 are collision attacks.

Is it just because of the general inference that if a hash is vulnerable to collision attacks, it is more likely to be vulnerable to preimage attacks, even if none are known currently?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Because I can forge two messages, first a money transfer of $\10 and later a can send you to show that I sent you \$100000. Isn't this an attack? $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Jan 21, 2021 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly helpful $\endgroup$
    – fgrieu
    Jun 21, 2021 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Generally the signature generation includes hashing; the hashing isn't performed separately. I wonder if you haven't just described DSA, and that would not be secure under your conditions as far as I can see (prefixed randomness & randomness included in signature generation). $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes
    Jun 22, 2021 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


Your idea of salting the signature to prevent the collision attack doesn't work, because your salted signing operation is a deterministic mathematical function, and the random choice of salt is only made at signature time, not at verification. Your signature algorithm has to be something like this. For a document $x$ and hash function $H$:

  1. Hash the document: $h = H(x)$;
  2. Generate a random salt $s$;
  3. Apply the signature primitive function: $r = \mathrm{Sign}_{sk}^s(h)$;
  4. Return $(s, r)$—the pair of the salt you picked and the signature primitive's result. Because verifiers are going to need the value of $s$ you picked on this occasion to verify the signature.

For a document $y$ and a putative signature $(s, r)$, the verification algorithm has to work something like this:

  1. Hash the document: $h = H(y)$;
  2. Apply the verification primitive function: $\mathrm{Verify}_{pk}^s(r)$.

No random choices involved in verification. So if I can craft a pair of colliding documents and convince you to sign the "good" one for me, I can take the signature you produced and give it to somebody along with the "bad" document, and when they try to verify it it'll check out.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think he meant to salt the message along with document before hashing. Of course carelessly applying the salt won't work because finding collision for H(m)=H(m')=h also can make collision for H(m||s)=H(m'||s)=h', adjusting for padding. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2021 at 10:21

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