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Learn what the Calculate Hash API can do for you.

 

In the past month, I've been asked two related questions. The first was "Can my AS/400 [sic] work with hashes?" and the second, a bit more specific, "Can the i generate a SHA-256 hash to work with a Linux system?" The answer to both questions, as you might expect, is yes, there's an API for that (as long as the system is at V5R3 or higher that is, in the case of the AS/400 question).

Hashing, if you are not familiar with the term, is a mechanism by which a fixed-length value can be generated from a string of data in such as way that it is extremely unlikely that some other data string will generate the same hash value. That is, if one program writes a string such as "The i is the best system in the world," which hashes to the value X, and another program subsequently reads a different string (due to "someone" altering the original value) and generates a hash value based on the altered string, then it is highly unlikely that the second program will also generate X. If the second program generates X, then no one has changed the data. If the second program generates Y, then the data has been altered. The writing of the original data string might be to another system, a DB2 table on the same system, an IFS stream file, or whatever other mechanism you might want to use within your application. The original hash value X might be written with the original string in an encrypted form using a key known by the receiving program, written to read-only storage for later access by the receiving program, or protected in some other fashion that allows the receiving program to determine the original hash value of X.

The Calculate Hash API, documented here, is provided as both a program (QC3CALHA) and a procedure (Qc3CalculateHash). The following program demonstrates how to use the Qc3CalculateHash procedure to hash the string 'Some data to be hashed'.

h dftactgrp(*no)                                                          

                                                                          

d HshDta         pr                 extproc('Qc3CalculateHash')          

d InpDta                     4096a   const options(*varsize)              

d LenInpDta                   10i 0 const                                

d FmtInpDta                     8a   const                                

d AlgDsc                     4096a   const options(*varsize)              

d FmtAlgDsc                     8a   const                                

d CryptoPrv                     1a   const                                

d CryptoDev                    10a   const                                

d HshVal                       1a   options(*varsize)                    

d ErrCde                             likeds(qusec)                        

                                                                          

d Data           s             25a   inz('Some data to be hashed')        

d HashValue       s             32a                                        

                                                                          

/copy qsysinc/qrpglesrc,qc3cci                                            

/copy qsysinc/qrpglesrc,qusec                                            

                                                                          

/free                                                  

                                                        

QUSBPrv = 0;                                          

                                                        

QC3HA = 3;                                            

HshDta(Data :%len(%trimr(Data)) :'DATA0100'          

         :QC3D0500 :'ALGD0500' :'0' :' '                

         :HashValue :QUSEC);                            

                                                        

*inlr = *on;                                          

return;                                              

                                                        

/end-free                                              

 

As you can see, there's not much to the program!

 

The program starts by prototyping the Qc3CalculateHash API using the name HshDta. The nine parameters passed to the API are used in the following manner:

 

  1. Input data (InpDta)Depending on the Input data format (the third parameter), either a variable-length string containing the data to be hashed or an array identifying one or more variable-length strings containing the data to be hashed
  2. Length of input data (LenInpDta)Depending on the Input data format (the third parameter), either the length of the Input data to be hashed or the number of array entries to process within the Input data parameter
  3. Input data format name (FmtInpDta)The format of the Input data (the first parameter). Format DATA0100 indicates that a single variable-length string is to be hashed, Format DATA0200 that an array of variable-length strings are to be hashed
  4. Algorithm description (AlgDsc)The algorithm to be used when hashing the data
  5. Algorithm description format name (FmtAlgDsc)The format of the Algorithm description (the fourth parameter). Format ALGD0100 indicates that the Calculate Hash API may be called multiple times in order to process all of the data to be hashed. Using this format, the algorithm to be used is defined using another API (which will be reviewed in a future article). Format ALGD0500 indicates that the Calculate Hash API will be called once (with all of the data to be hashed) and that the algorithm to be used can be found directly in the fourth parameter. Other formats are defined (ALGD0200, ALGD0300, etc.) but are used for functions other than hashing.
  6. Cryptographic service provider (CryptoPrv)Depending on the system configuration, you may have both software and hardware cryptographic capabilities. A value of '0' indicates that the system should decide where to perform the hashing function, a value of '1' that software should be used to perform the hashing function, and a value of '2' that hardware should be used to perform the hashing function.
  7. Cryptographic device name (CryptoDev)When the sixth parameter indicates that hardware should be used to perform the hashing function, this parameter identifies the name of the cryptographic device.
  8. Hash (HshVal)The parameter to receive the generated hash value. The size of this parameter is determined by the algorithm being used.
  9. Error code (ErrCde)The standard API error code parameter

 

Having prototyped the Calculate Hash API, the program then sets the Bytes provided field (QUSBPrv) of the error code structure to 0 (indicating that errors are to be returned as escape messages), sets the Hash algorithm to be used (QC3HA) to 3 (indicating the algorithm to be used is SHA-256), and calls the API. The field QC3HA is defined as an element of the structure QC3D0500, which is provided in member QC3CCI of source file QSYSINC/QRPGLESRC.

 

The hash algorithm to be used (QC3HA) supports the following values:

  1. MD-5 returns a hash value of 16 bytes in length.
  2. SHA-1 returns a hash value of 20 bytes in length.
  3. SHA-256 returns a hash value of 32 bytes in length.
  4. SHA-384 returns a hash value of 48 bytes in length.
  5. SHA-512 returns a hash value of 64 bytes in length.

Using tools such as Google, you can find more information than you probably ever wanted on each of these algorithms. The key points I would like to make are:

  1. The algorithm selected determines the size you need to allocate for the Hash value parameter. As we're using value 3, SHA-256, in the sample program we've allocated 32 bytes for the HashValue field passed as the 8th parameter (HshVal) of the API.
  2. Not all of these algorithms should be used for new development. The first two algorithms (MD-5 and SHA-1) are considered weak and are supported by the API primarily for compatibility with existing application use of hashing. New development, where possible, should use the algorithms SHA-256, SHA-384, or SHA-512.

When calling the Calculate Hash API, the data to be hashed is variable Data, the length of the data to be hashed is the blank trimmed length of variable Data, the data format used is DATA0100, the algorithm is SHA-256, all of the data to be hashed is passed on this API call, the system is to determine where to perform the hashing, and the generated hash value is to be returned to variable HashValue.

 

Assuming that the sample program is stored in member DOHASH of source file QRPGLESRC, you can create the program using the command CRTBNDRPG PGM(DOHASH).

 

Calling DOHASH will generate a 32-byte HashValue (shown in hex) of:

 

06E931E8 C399BD60 B3FC4263 C21BCDF3

F8BD668A 6AF9278E 2791D2B0 95DD8F92

In order to demonstrate how any alteration of the data to be hashed can impact the generated hash value, let's change the call to the API from using a second parameter of %len(%trimr(Data)) to using a parameter value of %size(Data). The difference here is that while Data is defined with a length of 25 bytes, the string 'Some data to be hashed' is only 22 bytes in length. Using the %size built-in will have the effect of having the API process three trailing blanks.

 

Recompiling and calling DOHASH after this change now generates a 32-byte HashValue of:

 

7FCBD451 76B2E190 AFC956AE F507CB35

A9C7F58B 36A68E25 58E9F3F9 736FB213

This new HashValue, as I'm sure you've noticed, is fundamentally different. Altering the string to be hashed by simply adding three blanks is more than sufficient for a new hash value to be generated. So you need to make sure that whatever program is generating a hash value in order to verify that a string has not been altered is using the same assumptions (length in this case) as the program originally generating the hash value to be compared with.

 

Given that just adding three blanks changed the generated hash value, it should be no surprise that adding a period to the end of the string ('Some data to be hashed. ' where there are two blanks following the period) will also generate a wildly different HashValue:

 

E32F1577 B88BD513 78551D15 13E5C4D3

3765A423 FDF4975D DD56CE70 63069806

Before closing, I would like to point out one "gotcha" that may save you minutes, days, or even weeks of head scratching. Over the years, I've seen several companies take a string such as 'Some data to be hashed', generate a hash value, write the string to a database file, FTP the file to another system, and then find that the string, when hashed on the other system, generates a different hash. As their use of the Calculate Hash API is new, they assume that they are using the API incorrectly when in fact their use is right on. What is typically the case is that the FTP operation converted the EBCDIC string 'Some data to be hashed' to the ASCII string 'Some data to be hashed' and, just as adding a blank to the string to be hashed changed the generated hash value, converting the data from EBCDIC to ASCII also changed the generated hash value. Along the same lines, writing the string 'Some data to be hashed' to an IFS stream file can, depending on how your job and stream file are defined, cause the system to perform an EBCDIC-to-ASCII conversion under the covers. So make sure the data you are generating the hash from is indeed the data that will be subsequently used when generating the hash value to verify that the data has not been altered (length of data, encoding of data, etc.).

 

As usual, if you have any API questions, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bruce Vining

Bruce Vining is president and co-founder of Bruce Vining Services, LLC, a firm providing contract programming and consulting services to the System i community. He began his career in 1979 as an IBM Systems Engineer in St. Louis, Missouri, and then transferred to Rochester, Minnesota, in 1985, where he continues to reside. From 1992 until leaving IBM in 2007, Bruce was a member of the System Design Control Group responsible for OS/400 and i5/OS areas such as System APIs, Globalization, and Software Serviceability. He is also the designer of Control Language for Files (CLF).A frequent speaker and writer, Bruce can be reached at bvining@brucevining.com. 


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    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.