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What is password hashing?

Posted by Keith Shaffer on Sep 24, 2019 11:37:00 AM

What is password hashing?

As hacks and breaches have become more common in recent years for companies, protecting passwords has become one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity.  Hashing entails converting passwords into unreadable strings of characters that can’t be converted back. The transformation of the password to the string of characters is called hashing.

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A hashed password is basically a scrambled, unreadable representation of the original password. Password hashing is great for security because it’s a one-way function. Commonly used hashing algorithms include Message Digest (MDx) algorithms such as MD5 and Secure Hash Algorithms (SHA) like SHA-1 and SHA-2. Hashing is becoming more prevalent as newer technologies like blockchain utilize the SHA-256 algorithm to ensure security.

 

Why is hashing secure?

 As much as companies like to encourage users to change their passwords periodically or use strong passwords, the majority of users use the same simple passwords for almost all of their accounts (Gmail, Facebook, work email, etc.). It’s important for companies to realize that their database security is the first line of defense for user’s information. If hackers get access to a database with hashed passwords, they cannot convert it into plain text to steal user data. Hashing serves as a great line of defense in the dire event that hackers get ahold of user data.

 

Hashing is secure because it’s a one-way function; it’s extremely difficult for a hacker or external threat to decode the hashed password; encryption is generally the industry-standard for password protection. In encryption. If someone enters the key for something encrypted, the password can be seen in original format. Hashing is a better form of security than encryption because encryption is a two-way function and the original password can’t be obtained even with a key. For example, if you’re given a hash like “eeb7048c69b088739908f5f5144cd1f5” it cannot be reversed back to an original input like John Doe.

 

Hashing is extremely helpful in protecting companies’ users. When a user signs into a site and they save their password, the website will hash their password and save it in a database. The next time a user logs in, the website will rehash the password and compare it to the saved one in the database and authenticate the user. Then if the website is ever hacked, hackers cannot gain the passwords of the users. This is important in preventing against unauthorized actions by anyone except the user.Hashing is especially important for companies that work in sectors with sensitive customer or client information like healthcare or law. If you’d like to learn about password security and hashing for your organization, contact a security expert here for a free assessment.

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Topics: Password Hashing