Secure Data Hashing: 5 Practical Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Select a strong hashing algorithm
  2. Use salt to prevent rainbow table attacks
  3. Implement key stretching for added security
  4. Store hashes securely
  5. Regularly update your hashing strategies

Let's talk about secure data hashing. It's like a secret language that only you and your computer understand. It's a way to keep your data safe from prying eyes, and it's not as complicated as you might think. With the right techniques, you can make your data almost impossible to crack. Here are five practical tips and techniques to help you get started.

Select a strong hashing algorithm

The first step in secure data hashing is choosing a strong hashing algorithm. It's like picking a sturdy lock for your front door — you want something that'll keep the burglars out.

Understanding Hashing Algorithms

Hashing algorithms are the magic behind secure data hashing. They take your data — whether it's a password, a credit card number, or a secret message — and turn it into a jumble of numbers and letters. It's like a secret code that only you and your computer can understand.

  • MD5: This was once a popular choice, but it's not as secure as it used to be. It's like an old lock that's been picked too many times.
  • SHA-1: This is a bit stronger than MD5, but it's also showing its age. It might be okay for some things, but if you're serious about security, you'll want to go with a stronger option.
  • SHA-256: Now we're talking. SHA-256 is a part of the SHA-2 family, and it's a solid choice for secure data hashing. It's like a modern lock with a deadbolt.
  • SHA-3: The newest member of the SHA family, SHA-3 is like a fingerprint scanner for your front door. It's one of the strongest options out there.

Choosing the Right Algorithm

So, which hashing algorithm should you choose? It depends on what you're trying to protect. If you're just hashing some data for a school project, MD5 or SHA-1 might be fine. But if you're working with sensitive information, you'll want to go with SHA-256 or SHA-3.

Remember, the goal is to make your data as secure as possible. So, when it comes to selecting a hashing algorithm, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Use salt to prevent rainbow table attacks

Now that we've chosen a strong hashing algorithm, a key ingredient is missing in our secure data hashing recipe — salt! No, not the kind you sprinkle on your fries, but a random piece of data that hackers hate!

What is Salt in Data Hashing?

Salt in data hashing is like a secret ingredient. It's a random piece of data that you add to your password before you hash it. This makes your hashed data even more complex and hard to crack.

Imagine you're trying to break a secret code. You might have a codebook that tells you what each letter means. But what if the person who wrote the code added some random letters that aren't in your codebook? You'd be lost, right? That's what salt does to hackers.

How to Use Salt

Using salt in your data hashing is easy. All you have to do is generate a random string of data and add it to your password before you hash it.

  1. Generate a random string: This can be any string of numbers and letters. The more random, the better.
  2. Add the salt to your password: You can add the salt to the beginning or the end of your password. It doesn't matter where you put it, as long as you remember where it is.
  3. Hash your password: Now that you've added the salt, you can hash your password like you normally would.

Using salt in your data hashing not only makes your data more secure, but it also keeps it flavorful and hacker-free! So, next time you're working on secure data hashing, don't forget to add a pinch of salt.

Implement key stretching for added security

With our data already salted and hashed, you might think we're done. But wait, there's more! We can add another layer of security to our data hashing recipe — key stretching. Think of it as the equivalent of adding an extra lock to your door.

What is Key Stretching?

Key stretching is a technique where we hash our data, not just once, but multiple times. It's like a security guard checking your ID multiple times before letting you in. It might seem excessive, but it really does add a lot of security to your data.

How to Implement Key Stretching

Implementing key stretching in your secure data hashing procedure is like doing extra reps at the gym — it's a bit more work, but the results are worth it. Here's how you do it:

  1. Hash your data: The first step is the same as normal hashing. You hash your data once.
  2. Hash it again: After you've hashed your data once, you hash the hashed data. Yes, you read that right! You're hashing the hash.
  3. Repeat: You keep repeating the process a number of times. The exact number is up to you, but more is usually better. Just remember, the more times you hash your data, the longer it will take to verify it later.

So, there you have it — key stretching! It's like the cherry on top of our secure data hashing sundae. It might take a little bit more time and effort, but the added security is definitely worth it.

Store hashes securely

So, we've hashed, salted, and stretched our data. It's ready to be stored, right? Not so fast! One of the most important steps in secure data hashing is how you actually store your hashes. It's like going to the trouble of making a delicious pie, but then leaving it out in the open for anyone to take a slice.

Database Security

First things first, you need to make sure your database itself is secure. This is your pie safe — it's what's going to keep your delicious pie (or in this case, your data) safe from hungry passersby. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Access Controls: Who has access to your database? Make sure it's only the people who need it. It's like giving out keys to your pie safe. You wouldn't give a key to just anyone, would you?
  • Encryption: Even if someone does get access to your database, encryption can keep your data safe. It's like a second lock on your pie safe. Yes, they might have the key, but without the combination, they're still not getting a slice of your pie.
  • Monitoring: Keep an eye on your database. Regular checks can help you spot any suspicious activity. Like if you notice a slice of your pie is missing, you know you have a problem.

Hash Storage

Now that your database is secure, let's talk about storing the hashes themselves. After all, a pie safe is no good if you leave the pie on the counter. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Store Hashes and Salts Separately: Yes, you want to keep them close, but not too close. It's like keeping the pie and the whipped cream separate. They're great together, but you don't want to mix them up until it's time to serve.
  2. Don't Store Original Data: This is a big one. Never store the original data. If you do, it's like making a pie only to eat the ingredients separately. The whole point of hashing is to protect the original data, so don't keep it around.

And there you have it! Now you know how to store your hashes securely. Remember, secure data hashing doesn't end when the hashing is done. It's a process from start to finish, and every step is important.

Regularly update your hashing strategies

Using secure data hashing is kind of like maintaining a car. You can't just buy it and then forget about it. Just like your car needs regular oil changes and tire rotations, your hashing strategies need regular updates to stay effective. Let's talk about how you can do this.

Stay Informed

First, you need to know what's going on in the world of data security. Things change fast, and you don't want to be left behind. Here's how you can stay informed:

  1. Read Industry News: Think of this like checking the weather. Just like you wouldn't leave the house without knowing if it's going to rain, you shouldn't hash your data without knowing what's going on in the industry.
  2. Follow Experts: This is like having a trusted mechanic. They've got their finger on the pulse of the industry and can give you valuable insights. It could be a security expert at a conference, a well-known blog, or a trusted colleague.

Update Regularly

Now that you're informed, you need to put that knowledge into action. This is where regular updates come in. And no, this isn't like updating your phone's software (which we all know we put off too often). This is important stuff. Here's what to do:

  • Review Hashing Algorithms: Remember that secure data hashing relies on strong algorithms. As new ones are developed, old ones may become less secure. Regularly review your choice of algorithm to ensure it's still the best option.
  • Update Salt Values: Just like you wouldn't use the same password for every account, you don't want to use the same salt value for every hash. Update these regularly to keep your data secure.

And there you have it! By regularly updating your hashing strategies, you're taking the necessary steps to ensure that your secure data hashing remains, well, secure. It's not always the most fun job, but hey, neither is changing the oil in your car, and we all know how important that is!

If you're eager to learn more about secure data hashing and its role in the digital economy, don't miss the workshop 'Crypto For Creators, Part 1: The Backbone Of The Digital Economy' by Tom Glendinning. This workshop will provide you with practical tips, techniques, and insights on how to effectively implement secure data hashing in your projects.