What is Hash Chain? Hash Chain Explained.

Last Updated on October 10, 2023

A Hash Chain is a series of hash values where each value in the series is derived by applying a cryptographic hash function to the preceding value. Starting with an initial seed value, the hash function is applied repeatedly, creating a chain of linked hash values. Hash chains are often used in various cryptographic protocols and applications due to their ability to provide tamper-evident sequences and verification of data integrity.


Why are Hash Chains considered secure?

Hash Chains leverage cryptographic hash functions, which have specific properties making them resistant to attacks. For example, it’s computationally infeasible to generate the same hash output from two different input values (collision resistance) or to derive the original input from its hash (pre-image resistance). Thus, even if one knows the latest hash in the chain, it is difficult to determine or alter previous values without detection.

How are Hash Chains used in One-Time Passwords (OTPs)?

Hash chains are commonly used in Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) systems. In such a system, the initial seed (or secret key) is hashed a certain number of times to generate a one-time password. After each use, the system progresses to the next hash in the chain for the subsequent OTP, making it difficult for attackers to predict future passwords or recreate past ones.

Are Hash Chains related to Blockchain technology?

While both concepts involve chains and cryptographic hashing, they serve different purposes. A blockchain is a distributed ledger containing records (blocks) linked using cryptographic hashes. Each block contains the hash of the previous block, ensuring data integrity. On the other hand, a hash chain doesn’t necessarily require a distributed ledger or blocks of data but is a simpler series of successive hash values.

What are the limitations of Hash Chains?

The primary limitation of hash chains is their finite length. Since a hash chain starts with an initial seed and is derived through repeated hashing, there’s an endpoint to the chain. Once the chain is exhausted, a new seed must be generated. Additionally, if a malicious actor gains access to the initial seed and the number of hashes applied, they can recreate the entire chain.

In which applications or protocols are Hash Chains commonly found?

Apart from One-Time Password systems, hash chains are used in various cryptographic protocols, like the Secure Shell (SSH) for server host keys, in digital signatures to provide proof of sequence, and in certain digital cash schemes to prevent double-spending.

Author of This Article:

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

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