What is Hashing on the Blockchain?

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Cryptographic hashing is a key feature in the security and efficiency of blockchains. If you’ve ever wondered how so much data can be stored securely on every node in the network, hashing is a big part of the answer! We’ll cover all the basics you need to know in this video!

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Cryptographic hash functions

A cryptographic hash function is a special class of hash functions which has various properties making it ideal for cryptography. There are certain properties that a cryptographic hash function needs to have in order to be considered secure. Let’s run through them one by one.

Property 1: Deterministic

This means that no matter how many times you parse through a particular input through a hash function you will always get the same result. This is critical because if you get different hashes every single time it will be impossible to keep track of the input.

Property 2: Quick Computation

The hash function should be capable of returning the hash of an input quickly. If the process isn’t fast enough then the system simply won’t be efficient.

Property 3: Pre-Image Resistance

What pre-image resistance states is that given H(A) it is infeasible to determine A, where A is the input and H(A) is the output hash. Notice the use of the word “infeasible” instead of “impossible”. We already know that it is not impossible to determine the original input from its hash value. Let’s take an example.

Suppose you are rolling a dice and the output is the hash of the number that comes up from the dice. How will you be able to determine what the original number was? It’s simple all that you have to do is to find out the hashes of all numbers from 1-6 and compare. Since hash functions are deterministic, the hash of a particular input will always be the same, so you can simply compare the hashes and find out the original input.

But this only works when the given amount of data is very less. What happens when you have a huge amount of data? Suppose you are dealing with a 128-bit hash. The only method that you have to find the original input is by using the “brute-force method”. Brute-force method basically means that you have to pick up a random input, hash it and then compare the output with the target hash and repeat until you find a match.