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 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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