What Is SHA-256?

SHA-256 is a cryptographic hash function used to generate digital signatures. It was developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and published in 2001 as part of the Secure Hash Algorithm series. SHA-256 produces a 256 bit message digest, which is much longer than other algorithms such as MD5 or SHA1. This makes it more secure against brute force attacks and provides better protection for data integrity. The algorithm takes an input string of any length and produces a fixed size output that cannot be reversed back into its original form.

The main purpose of using SHA-256 is to ensure data integrity when transmitting information over networks or storing files on disk drives. By generating a unique signature for each file, users can verify that their data has not been tampered with during transmission or storage. Additionally, since the output from this algorithm is always the same given an identical input, it can also be used to detect duplicate files stored on different systems without having to compare them directly byte by byte.

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