Message authentication

In information security, message authentication or data origin authentication is a property that a message has not been modified while in transit (data integrity) and that the receiving party can verify the source of the message.[1] Message authentication does not necessarily include the property of non-repudiation.[2][3]

Message authentication is typically achieved by using message authentication codes (MACs), authenticated encryption (AE) or digital signatures.[2] The message authentication code, also known as digital authenticator, is used as an integrity check based on a secret key shared by two parties to authenticate information transmitted between them.[4] It is based on using a cryptographic hash or symmetric encryption algorithm.[5] The authentication key is only shared by at least two parties or two communicating devices but it will fail in the existence of a third party since the algorithm will no longer be effective in detecting forgeries.[6] In addition, the key must also be randomly generated to avoid its recovery through brute force searches and related key attacks designed to identify it from the messages transiting the medium.[6]

Some cryptographers distinguish between "message authentication without secrecy" systems -- which allow the intended receiver to verify the source of the message, but don't bother hiding the plaintext contents of the message -- from authenticated encryption systems.[7] Some cryptographers have researched subliminal channel systems that send messages that appear to use a "message authentication without secrecy" system, but in fact also transmit a secret message.

See also


  1. Mihir Bellare. "Chapter 7: Message Authentication" (PDF). CSE 207: Modern Cryptography. Lecture notes for cryptography course.
  2. Alfred J. Menezes, Paul C. van Oorschot, Scott A. Vanstone. "Chapter 9 - Hash Functions and Data Integrity" (PDF). Handbook of Applied Cryptography. p. 361.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. "Data Origin Authentication". Web Service Security. Microsoft Developer Network.
  4. Patel, Dhiren (2008). Information Security: Theory and Practice. New Delhi: Prentice Hall India Private Lt. p. 124. ISBN 9788120333512.
  5. Jacobs, Stuart (2011). Engineering Information Security: The Application of Systems Engineering Concepts to Achieve Information Assurance. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & sons. p. 108. ISBN 9780470565124.
  6. Vacca, John (2009). Computer and Information Security Handbook. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. pp. 111–112. ISBN 9780123743541.
  7. G. Longo, M. Marchi, A. Sgarro "Geometries, Codes and Cryptography". p. 188.
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