Seeking the Excalibur of all algorithms

CRYPTOGRAPHERS get ready: the race is on to find the next gold-standard security algorithm. In 2004 and 2005, Chinese mathematician Xiaoyun Wang shocked cryptographers by revealing flaws in an algorithm crucial to online banking and digital signatures (New Scientist, 26 February 2005, p 4). The Secure Hash Algorithm, SHA-1, turns files of almost any length into a string of bits called a hash. It was believed to be virtually impossible to find two files that produce the same hash, but Wang showed this not to be the case, raising the possibility that hash-protected accounts could be broken into,
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