Message Digest

Definition: The phrase Message Digest refers to the result of an encryption program being applied to an electronic document. Each of the letters and characters used by computers are represented by numeric values. A specialized program (an encryption algorithm) process the text of the document and results in a specific value. The numeric value remains fixed when the message's contents are transmitted unless the content of the message is altered. What is known as a “digital signature” is created when the numeric value of the communication is combined with a private key. A quick verification that the “hashed” value (produced by the document as a result of being processed by an algorithm) hasn’t changed vouches for its legitimacy.

Its Relevance: Information security plans should include provisions for authenticating communications with methods like the one described above. Verification of the type described above protects the integrity of data that is in transit.

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