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What Are Hash Files?

Hash data is a numerical representation of data that is difficult a person to interpret.
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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Computer security is an important aspect for most businesses. Many organizations use a process of hashing data into hash files to encrypt important data. Hash data is a numerical representation of data and is not easy for a human to interpret. A hash file is a file that has been converted into a numerical string by a mathematical algorithm. This data can only be understood after it has been unencrypted with a hash key.

The process of hashing is the mathematical conversion of a string of characters into a smaller value that is typically called a hash key. This new value represents the original character string after it has been encrypted. Hashing is often used in databases as a method of creating an index. Because hashed values are smaller than strings, the database can perform reading and writing functions faster.

Hash files are commonly used as a method of verifying file size. This process is called check-sum verification. When a file is sent over a network, it must be broken into small pieces and reassembled after it reaches its destination. In this situation the hash number represents the size of the data in a file. The hash can then be used as a tool for validating the entire file was successfully transmitted over the network.

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The hash procedure was first created in the 1950s as a method of speeding up computer access. Creating hash files requires a hash function, which is a mathematical algorithm. There are many types of hash algorithms available today in computer engineering. These functions vary in complexity, but all seek to manipulate strings of text and convert them into numbers.

Most law enforcement agencies use hash files to store important fingerprint information. The fingerprint technology available today uses hash files and functions to capture the images of each fingerprint. These fingerprint images are converted into a numerical format and stored in law enforcement databases. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains one of the largest fingerprint databases in the United States. These fingerprints include all known criminals within the United States and are stored by using hash technology.

Hash technology is also used as a security device between computers on the Internet. Computer certificates are the encrypted keys exchanged between computers and software over a computer network. These keys identify a computer as a trusted recipient of a software program. The hash function is what is used for inspecting and verifying that the correct key is owned by a specific computer. This key technology has been available for many years as a technique to verify computers before information is sent over the Internet.

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anon334288
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