OpenSSL::Digest allows you to compute message digests (sometimes interchangeably called “hashes”) of arbitrary data that are cryptographically secure, i.e. a Digest implements a secure one-way function.

One-way functions offer some useful properties. E.g. given two distinct inputs the probability that both yield the same output is highly unlikely. Combined with the fact that every message digest algorithm has a fixed-length output of just a few bytes, digests are often used to create unique identifiers for arbitrary data. A common example is the creation of a unique id for binary documents that are stored in a database.

Another useful characteristic of one-way functions (and thus the name) is that given a digest there is no indication about the original data that produced it, i.e. the only way to identify the original input is to “brute-force” through every possible combination of inputs.

These characteristics make one-way functions also ideal companions for public key signature algorithms: instead of signing an entire document, first a hash of the document is produced with a considerably faster message digest algorithm and only the few bytes of its output need to be signed using the slower public key algorithm. To validate the integrity of a signed document, it suffices to re-compute the hash and verify that it is equal to that in the signature.

Among the supported message digest algorithms are:

  • SHA, SHA1, SHA224, SHA256, SHA384 and SHA512

  • MD2, MD4, MDC2 and MD5

  • RIPEMD160

  • DSS, DSS1 (Pseudo algorithms to be used for DSA signatures. DSS is equal to SHA and DSS1 is equal to SHA1)

For each of these algorithms, there is a sub-class of Digest that can be instantiated as simply as e.g.

digest =

Mapping between Digest class and sn/ln

The sn (short names) and ln (long names) are defined in <openssl/object.h> and <openssl/obj_mac.h>. They are textual representations of ASN.1 OBJECT IDENTIFIERs. Each supported digest algorithm has an OBJECT IDENTIFIER associated to it and those again have short/long names assigned to them. E.g. the OBJECT IDENTIFIER for SHA-1 is and its sn is “SHA1” and its ln is “sha1”.


  • sn: MD2

  • ln: md2


  • sn: MD4

  • ln: md4


  • sn: MD5

  • ln: md5


  • sn: SHA

  • ln: SHA


  • sn: SHA1

  • ln: sha1


  • sn: SHA224

  • ln: sha224


  • sn: SHA256

  • ln: sha256


  • sn: SHA384

  • ln: sha384


  • sn: SHA512

  • ln: sha512

“Breaking” a message digest algorithm means defying its one-way function characteristics, i.e. producing a collision or finding a way to get to the original data by means that are more efficient than brute-forcing etc. Most of the supported digest algorithms can be considered broken in this sense, even the very popular MD5 and SHA1 algorithms. Should security be your highest concern, then you should probably rely on SHA224, SHA256, SHA384 or SHA512.

Hashing a file

data ='document')
sha256 =
digest = sha256.digest(data)

Hashing several pieces of data at once

data1 ='file1')
data2 ='file2')
data3 ='file3')
sha256 =
sha256 << data1
sha256 << data2
sha256 << data3
digest = sha256.digest

Reuse a Digest instance

data1 ='file1')
sha256 =
digest1 = sha256.digest(data1)

data2 ='file2')
digest2 = sha256.digest(data2)
Class Methods

Return the hash value computed with name Digest. name is either the long name or short name of a supported digest algorithm.


OpenSSL::Digest.digest("SHA256", "abc")

which is equivalent to:


Creates a Digest instance based on string, which is either the ln (long name) or sn (short name) of a supported digest algorithm.

If data (a String) is given, it is used as the initial input to the Digest instance, i.e.

digest ='sha256', 'digestdata')

is equivalent to

digest ='sha256')
Instance Methods
An alias for update

Returns the block length of the digest algorithm, i.e. the length in bytes of an individual block. Most modern algorithms partition a message to be digested into a sequence of fix-sized blocks that are processed consecutively.


digest =
puts digest.block_length # => 64

Returns the output size of the digest, i.e. the length in bytes of the final message digest result.


digest =
puts digest.digest_length # => 20
No documentation available
No documentation available

Returns the sn of this Digest algorithm.


digest =
puts # => SHA512

Resets the Digest in the sense that any Digest#update that has been performed is abandoned and the Digest is set to its initial state again.

Not every message digest can be computed in one single pass. If a message digest is to be computed from several subsequent sources, then each may be passed individually to the Digest instance.


digest =
digest.update('First input')
digest << 'Second input' # equivalent to digest.update('Second input')
result = digest.digest