SHA-1 versus SHA-2 performance tests

Moving to SHA256 has become an increasingly common topic ever since SHA-1 went through the bad news cycle of being vulnerable faster than brute-force. Even in cases where not relevant, such as authentication mechanisms (SCRAM), it feels like only a short time from now regulators will push a SHA-2 family as minimum requirement. For most people that means moving to a 256 bit key length (SHA256) sooner rather than later.

Will SHA256 cause a performance issue when replacing SCRAM-SHA-1? It’s hard to say, given that many variables are involved in testing, yet generally we expect a 50% performance change with 256 bit key length of SHA-2 compared with 160 bit key length of SHA-1.

Assuming proper construction a larger bit size means more possible combinations, which means strength through slowing down brute force attempts. A cryptographic hashing algorithm is only as great as its ability to make truly unique, non-guessable, hashes. So here’s a way for you to compare speeds:

ubuntu17:~$ openssl speed -multi 2 -decrypt sha1 sha256

The 'numbers' are in 1000s of bytes per second processed
sha1            176979.32k   479049.54k  1017926.06k  1451719.34k  1652667.73k
sha256          144534.98k   302692.57k   576607.91k   697034.07k   740136.28k

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