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The Skein Hash Function Family

The Skein Hash Function Family

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Published by Chris Nash
Skein is a new family of cryptographic hash functions. Its design combines speed, security, simplicity, and a great deal of flexibility in a modular package that is easy to analyze.
Skein is a new family of cryptographic hash functions. Its design combines speed, security, simplicity, and a great deal of flexibility in a modular package that is easy to analyze.

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Published by: Chris Nash on Oct 29, 2008
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09/07/2012

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When hashing very large amounts of data, the linear structure of a classical linear hash function
becomes a limitation; it prevents a multi-core CPU from using multiple cores at the same time.
Also, a common use of hash functions is to verify the integrity of a large amount of data. With a
linear hash function, all the data has to be verified at the same time. This can be very inefficient,
as it is often desirable to verify the integrity of only a small part of the data.

A hash tree [70, 71] solves both these problems. Rather than hashing the data as one large string,
the data is cut into pieces. Each piece is hashed, and the resulting hashes are treated as a new
message. This procedure can be applied recursively until the result is a single hash value.

Skein includes an optional hash tree mode to support these type of applications. As different
applications have different requirements, there are three parameters that the application can choose
among to optimize the hash tree for its particular use: the leaf node size, the tree fan-out, and the
maximum tree height. This structure is explained more fully in Section 3.5.6.

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