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The role of hash functions in securing information security

20 February 2006

For the last two decades, hash functions have been an essential if little-known element of the cryptography that is used for securing computers and electronic communications. However, recent work has indicated that the most popular hash functions, used to protect most worldwide web internet financial transactions, can now be broken or have very questionable security.

In a seminar entitled 'Survey on the state of the art of hash functions', to be given at UCL at 11am on Thursday 19th May, Professor Wang Xiaoyun, of Tsinghua and Shandong Universities in China and one of the world's foremost experts in the field, will set out the importance of hash functions, how her team have already 'broken' a number of them and the implications of her research for business and customers.

The seminar forms part of a series established by UCL to complement its newly established MSc in Information Security, an advanced programme for computer science and engineering graduates who wish to work in the field.

Professor Yvo Desmedt, BT Chair of Information Security at UCL, says: "This topic used to be the domain of spies. Today, cryptography is used in everyday transactions, such as paying bills and banking transactions on the internet. Every time a user goes to a web address starting with https and sees the little padlock close on the browser, cryptography is activated. The consequences of the security failings of the function are potentially very serious. We address these issues on our M S c programme, and Dr Wang's lecture will also make an important contribution to the intelligence that we have in this area."

Notes for Editors

1.Dr Wang's lecture, 'Survey on the state of the art of hash functions', will take place at 11am on Thursday 19 th May in the AV Hill Room, Medical Sciences and Anatomy Building , Gower Street , London WC1.

2. For further details or requests for interviews contact Dominique Fourniol in the UCL media relations office on 0207 679 9728 or d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk .

3. For more information about the Information Security MSc, go to http://mscinfosec.adastral.ucl.ac.uk/