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Cryptographic Hash Algorithm Competition


NIST opened a public competition on November 2, 2007 to develop a new cryptographic hash algorithm, which converts a variable length message into a short "message digest" that can be used for digital signatures, message authentication and many other security applications in the information infrastructure. The competition was NIST's response to advances in the cryptanalysis of hash algorithms. The new hash algorithm is referred to as "SHA-3" and will augment the hash algorithms specified in the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 180-4, Secure Hash Standard. The competition ended on October 2, 2012 when NIST announced KECCAK as the winner of the SHA-3 Competition, and becomes NIST's SHA-3 hash algorithm.


A cryptographic hash algorithm is designed to provide a random mapping from a string of binary data to a fixed-size "message digest" and achieve certain security properties. FIPS 180-4 specifies seven cryptographic hash algorithms for federal use — SHA-1, SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, SHA-512, SHA-512/224 and SHA-512/256.

In recent years, several cryptographic hash algorithms have been successfully attacked, and serious attacks have been published against the NIST-approved SHA-1. In response, NIST held two public workshops to assess the status of its approved hash algorithms, and to solicit public input on its cryptographic hash algorithm policy and standard. As a result of these workshops, NIST decided to develop a new cryptographic hash algorithm through a public competition, similar to the development process of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

NIST announced the "SHA-3" Cryptographic Hash Algorithm Competition in a Federal Register Notice on November 2, 2007. NIST received sixty-four entries from cryptographers around the world by October 31, 2008, and selected fifty-one first-round candidates in December 2008, and fourteen second-round candidates in July 2009. On December 9, 2010, NIST announced five third-round candidates – BLAKE, Grøstl, JH, KECCAK and Skein, to enter the final round of the competition.

The cryptographic community has provided an enormous amount of feedback throughout the competition. Most of the comments were sent to NIST and a public hash forum; in addition, many of the cryptanalysis and performance studies were published as papers in major cryptographic conferences or leading cryptographic journals. NIST also hosted three SHA-3 candidate conferences to obtain public feedback.

Based on the public comments and internal review of the candidates, NIST announced KECCAK as the winner of the SHA-3 competition on October 2, 2012, and ended the five-year competition.

Further details of the competition are available at http://www.nist.gov/hash-competition.

Major Accomplishments:

  • Hosted First Cryptographic Hash Workshop, October 31-November 1, 2005; 
  • Hosted Second Cryptographic Hash Workshop, August 24-25, 2006;
  • Issued a Draft Minimum Acceptability Requirements, Submission Requirements, and Evaluation Criteria for candidate hash algorithms [Federal Register Notice (January 23, 2007)] for public comment;
  • Issued a Call for a New Cryptographic Hash Algorithm (SHA-3) Family [Federal Register Notice (November 2, 2007)] and launched the SHA-3 competition; 
  • Reviewed sixty-four hash entries and selected fifty-one first-round candidates on December 9, 2008;
  • Hosted the First SHA-3 Candidate Conference, February 25-28, 2009;
  • Announced fourteen second-round candidates on July 24, 2009;
  • Hosted the Second SHA-3 Candidate Conference, August 23-24, 2010;
  • Announced five SHA-3 finalists on December 9, 2010;
  • Hosted the Third SHA-3 Candidate Conference, March 22-23, 2012;
  • Announced KECCAK as the winner of the SHA-3 competition on October 2, 2012.

End Date:

2012, 4th quarter

Lead Organizational Unit:


Facilities/Tools Used:

A hash-forum@nist.gov email list has been established for dialogue regarding NIST's Cryptographic Hash Workshops and Hash Algorithm Competition. Follow the link to see the subscription instructions.


Elaine Barker
Larry Bassham
William Burr
Sara Caswell
Shu-jen Chang
Lily Chen
Quynh Dang
Morris Dworkin
John Kelsey
James Nechvatal
Rene Peralta
Ray Perlner
Tim Polk
Andrew Regenscheid
Meltem Sönmez Turan

Shu-jen Chang
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8930
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8930