Ensure File Integrity by Comparing Hashes

Downloading a program off of the internet these days is all too easy. Often times you may go through two or more websites trying to find a good file that is not corrupt, or has not been altered in any way from the original. Saving documents onto a shared drive at work may feel a little less secure than you would like. How do you know that the file was not altered while you may have been away? Luckily most files and programs have what is called a “digital signature”. When someone wants to ensure that a file is not altered from when they last utilize it, they can input a hash algorithm to the file which will generate a unique key of different characters. You can then compare this key with the digital signature of the file or program when you come back to it to make sure that nothing has been altered. If the file has been altered in any way, the hash value will be completely different, no matter how small or large the change might be. This ensures file integrity, a key concept in IT security.
Many companies already offer their hash values so that users are not fooled into downloading files that may contain malware. Microsoft offers their hash values to be compared with the file downloaded.

If you are using  a windows machine and want to start generating some hash values for your documents and programs, you need to download a third party software to generate and compare hash values. There are many options on the market, a very easy one to use is called “Hash my files” and can be downloaded here https://www.raymond.cc/blog/download/did/1823/. You can also generate hash values for your own files at home or work, to make sure that no one is altering important documents without your approval. Many times you can find a hash value of a program or file and copy and past it into a browser like Google. If it is a common file, the search results may be able to tell you that the file is known to have malware attached to it. Spending a few minutes researching a hash value before you click the download button may save you hours of battling a Trojan virus or other malware. You don’t have to be an IT forensics specialist to utilize this great tool to keep your files safe.
For more information about file hashing and data secure, contact ITDATA today.
Zachery Albeitawi
Help Desk Technician, ITDATA, Inc.