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Google Researchers Cracked Trusted Internet Security Tool

Google shattered SHA-1, a decades-old algorithm still widely used despite warnings. Now, the remaining users have three months to update.

It has been twenty years since SHA-1 was first introduced. SHA-1 was created back in 1995 by the National Security Agency (NSA). It was a part of the Digital Signature Algorithm, and like other hashes, it would take the entered message and convert it to a string of letters and numbers that served as a cryptographic fingerprint of that particular message. No two messages would be alike. A Google team of researchers recently announced that they managed to break the SHA-1 cryptographic algorithm.

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Cracking the SHA-1

Despite warnings of the algorithm’s effectiveness, it was still widely used. According to the researchers, the “SHAttered” attack, as they call it, is 100,000 times faster than a brute force attack. One researcher stated: “This attack required over 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 SHA1 computations. This took the equivalent processing power as 6,500 years of single-CPU computations and 110 years of single-GPU computations.”

That’s no small number. Even though security groups have stated the ineffectiveness of SHA-1 throughout the last decade, no one dealt with the underlying issues of a fading piece of technology. Microsoft had released a statement back in 2013 where they stated that SHA-1 would not be accepted after 2016.

Now everyone who ignored the warnings is in a race against time. They have a mere ninety days before Google releases the proof-of-concept code (PoC). This document will define the coding that the company used to create the collision attack. After that, everyone will have access to the information and can make their own pair of PDFs that hash to the same SHA-1. It’s bad news for services that have been reliant on the aging algorithm. For the many services that still use the now proven insecure SHA-1, they have three months to replace it with a more suitable and secure option like SHA-256 and SHA-3.