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From: Michael Silk (michaelslistsgmail.com)
Date: Wed Mar 21 2007 - 04:37:27 CDT
The Epoch Times
Home > Science & Technology
Chinese Professor Cracks Fifth Data Security Algorithm
SHA-1 added to list of "accomplishments"
Central News Agency
Jan 11, 2007
Associate professor Wang Xiaoyun of Beijing's Tsinghua University and
Shandong University of Technology has cracked SHA-1, a widely used data
security algorithm. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
TAIPEI-Within four years, the U.S. government will cease to use SHA-1
(Secure Hash Algorithm) for digital signatures, and convert to a new and
more advanced "hash" algorithm, according to the article "Security
Cracked!" from New Scientist . The reason for this change is that
professor Wang Xiaoyun of Beijing's Tsinghua University and Shandong
University of Technology, and her associates, have already cracked SHA-1.
Wang also cracked MD5 (Message Digest 5), the hash algorithm most commonly
used before SHA-1 became popular. Previous attacks on MD5 required over a
million years of supercomputer time, but Wang and her research team
obtained results using ordinary personal computers.
In early 2005, Wang and her research team announced that they had
in cracking SHA-1. In addition to the U.S. government, well-known
like Microsoft, Sun, Atmel, and others have also announced that they will
no longer be using SHA-1.
Two years ago, Wang announced at an international data security conference
that her team had successfully cracked four well-known hash
HAVAL-128, MD4, and RIPEMD-within ten years.
A few months later, she cracked the even more robust SHA-1.
Focus and Dedication
According to the article, Wang's research focusses on hash algorithms.
A hash algorithm is a mathematical procedure for deriving a 'fingerprint'
of a block of data. The hash algorithms used in cryptography are
it is easy to derive hash values from inputs, but very difficult to work
backwards, finding an input message that yields a given hash value.
Cryptographic hash algorithms are also resistant to "collisions": that is,
it is computationally infeasible to find any two messages that yield the
same hash value.
Hash algorithms' usefulness in data security relies on these properties,
and much research focusses in this area.
Recent years have seen a stream of ever-more-refined attacks on MD5 and
SHA-1-including, notably, Wang's team's results on SHA-1, which permit
finding collisions in SHA-1 about 2,000 times more quickly than
guessing. Wang's technique makes attacking SHA-1 efficient enough to be
MD5 and SHA-1 are the two most extensively used hash algorithms in the
world. These two algorithms underpin many digital signature and other
security schemes in use throughout the international community. They are
widely used in banking, securities, and e-commerce. SHA-1 has been
recognized as the cornerstone for modern Internet security.
According to the article, in the early stages of Wang's research, there
were other researchers who tried to crack it. However, none of them
succeeded. This is why in 15 years hash research had become the domain of
hopeless research in many scientists' minds.
Wang's method of cracking algorithms differs from others'. Although such
analysis usually cannot be done without the use of computers, according to
Wang, the computer only assisted in cracking the algorithm. Most of the
time, she calculated manually, and manually designed the methods.
"Hackers crack passwords with bad intentions," Wang said. "I hope efforts
to protect against password theft will benefit [from this]. Password
analysts work to evaluate the security of data encryption and to search
even more secure
"On the day that I cracked SHA-1," she added, "I went out to eat. I was
very excited. I knew I was the only person who knew this world-class
Within ten years, Wang cracked the five biggest names in cryptographic
algorithms. Many people would think the life of this scientist must be
monotonous, but "That ten years was a very relaxed time for me," she says.
During her work, she bore a daughter and cultivated a balcony full of
flowers. The only mathematics-related habit in her life is that she
remembers the license plates of taxi cabs.
With additional reporting by The Epoch Times.
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