Hash Functions and Checksums

Hash functions are one-way functions, which map data of arbitrary size to a fixed output length. Most of the hash functions in Botan are designed to be cryptographically secure, which means that it is computationally infeasible to create a collision (finding two inputs with the same hash) or preimages (given a hash output, generating an arbitrary input with the same hash). But note that not all such hash functions meet their goals, in particular MD4 and MD5 are trivially broken. However they are still included due to their wide adoption in various protocols.

The class HashFunction is defined in botan/hash.h.

Using a hash function is typically split into three stages: initialization, update, and finalization (often referred to as a IUF interface). The initialization stage is implicit: after creating a hash function object, it is ready to process data. Then update is called one or more times. Calling update several times is equivalent to calling it once with all of the arguments concatenated. After completing a hash computation (eg using final), the internal state is reset to begin hashing a new message.

class HashFunction
size_t output_length()

Return the size (in bytes) of the output of this function.

void update(const uint8_t *input, size_t length)

Updates the computation with input.

void update(uint8_t input)

Updates the computation with input.

void update(const std::vector<uint8_t> &input)

Updates the computation with input.

void update(const std::string &input)

Updates the computation with input.

void final(uint8_t *out)

Finalize the calculation and place the result into out. For the argument taking an array, exactly output_length bytes will be written. After you call final, the algorithm is reset to its initial state, so it may be reused immediately.

secure_vector<uint8_t> final()

Similar to the other function of the same name, except it returns the result in a newly allocated vector.

secure_vector<uint8_t> process(const uint8_t in[], size_t length)

Equivalent to calling update followed by final.

secure_vector<uint8_t> process(const std::string &in)

Equivalent to calling update followed by final.

Code Example

Assume we want to calculate the SHA-256, SHA-384, and SHA-3 hash digests of the STDIN stream using the Botan library.

#include <botan/hash.h>
#include <botan/hex.h>
#include <iostream>
int main ()
   std::unique_ptr<Botan::HashFunction> hash1(Botan::HashFunction::create("SHA-256"));
   std::unique_ptr<Botan::HashFunction> hash2(Botan::HashFunction::create("SHA-384"));
   std::unique_ptr<Botan::HashFunction> hash3(Botan::HashFunction::create("SHA-3"));
   std::vector<uint8_t> buf(2048);

      //read STDIN to buffer
      std::cin.read(reinterpret_cast<char*>(buf.data()), buf.size());
      size_t readcount = std::cin.gcount();
      //update hash computations with read data
   std::cout << "SHA-256: " << Botan::hex_encode(hash1->final()) << std::endl;
   std::cout << "SHA-384: " << Botan::hex_encode(hash2->final()) << std::endl;
   std::cout << "SHA-3: " << Botan::hex_encode(hash3->final()) << std::endl;
   return 0;

Available Hash Functions

The following cryptographic hash functions are implemented. If in doubt, any of SHA-384, SHA-3, BLAKE2b, or Skein-512 are fine choices.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_BLAKE2B is defined.

A recently designed hash function. Very fast on 64-bit processors. Can output a hash of any length between 1 and 64 bytes, this is specified by passing a value to the constructor with the desired length.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_GOST_34_11 is defined.

Russian national standard hash. It is old, slow, and has some weaknesses. Avoid it unless you must.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_KECCAK is defined.

An older (and incompatible) variant of SHA-3, but sometimes used. Prefer SHA-3 in new code.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_MD4 is defined.

An old hash function that is now known to be trivially breakable. It is very fast, and may still be suitable as a (non-cryptographic) checksum.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_MD5 is defined.

Widely used, now known to be broken.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_RIPEMD160 is defined.

A 160 bit hash function, quite old but still thought to be secure (up to the limit of 2**80 computation required for a collision which is possible with any 160 bit hash function). Somewhat deprecated these days.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHA1 is defined.

Widely adopted NSA designed hash function. Starting to show significant signs of weakness, and collisions can now be generated. Avoid in new designs.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHA2_32 is defined.

Relatively fast 256 bit hash function, thought to be secure.

Also includes the variant SHA-224. There is no real reason to use SHA-224.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHA2_64 is defined.

SHA-512 is faster than SHA-256 on 64-bit processors. Also includes the truncated variants SHA-384 and SHA-512/256.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHA3 is defined.

The new NIST standard hash. Fairly slow.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHAKE is defined.

These are actually XOFs (extensible output functions) based on SHA-3, which can output a value of any length.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SM3 is defined.

Chinese national hash function, 256 bit output. Widely used in industry there. Fast and seemingly secure.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_SKEIN_512 is defined.

A contender for the NIST SHA-3 competition. Very fast on 64-bit systems. Can output a hash of any length between 1 and 64 bytes. It also accepts a “personalization string” which can create variants of the hash. This is useful for domain separation.

Streebog (Streebog-256, Streebog-512)

Available if BOTAN_HAS_STREEBOG is defined.

Newly designed Russian national hash function. Due to use of input-dependent table lookups, it is vulnerable to side channels. There is no reason to use it unless compatibility is needed.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_TIGER is defined.

An older 192-bit hash function, optimized for 64-bit systems. Possibly vulnerable to side channels due to its use of table lookups. Prefer Skein-512 or BLAKE2b in new code.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_WHIRLPOOL is defined.

A 512-bit hash function standardized by ISO and NESSIE. Relatively slow, and due to the table based implementation it is (unlike almost all other hashes) potentially vulnerable to cache based side channels. Prefer Skein-512 or BLAKE2b in new code.

Hash Function Combiners

These are functions which combine multiple hash functions to create a new hash function. They are typically only used in specialized applications.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_PARALLEL_HASH is defined.

Parallel simply concatenates multiple hash functions. For example “Parallel(SHA-256,SHA-512)” outputs a 256+512 bit hash created by hashing the input with both SHA-256 and SHA-512 and concatenating the outputs.

Note that due to the “multicollision attack” it turns out that generating a collision for multiple parallel hash functions is no harder than generating a collision for the strongest hash function.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_COMB4P is defined.

This combines two cryptographic hashes in such a way that preimage and collision attacks are provably at least as hard as a preimage or collision attack on the strongest hash.



Checksums are not suitable for cryptographic use, but can be used for error checking purposes.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_ADLER32 is defined.

The Adler32 checksum is used in the zlib format. 32 bit output.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_CRC24 is defined.

This is the CRC function used in OpenPGP. 24 bit output.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_CRC32 is defined.

This is the 32-bit CRC used in protocols such as Ethernet, gzip, PNG, etc.