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MD5 (Message-Digest Algorithm 5) is a widely-used cryptographic hash function that produces a fixed-length output (128-bit message digest) from an input message of any length. The input message can be a file, text, or any digital data.
MD5 works by taking an input message and processing it through a series of mathematical operations to produce a unique fixed-length output, which is the message digest. The message digest is unique to the input message and any change to the input message will result in a completely different message digest. This makes MD5 useful for verifying the integrity of digital data, as any alteration to the data will result in a different message digest.
The MD5 algorithm works by dividing the input message into 512-bit blocks, padding the last block if necessary, and processing each block through four rounds of operations that include bit manipulation, modular arithmetic, and logical functions. Each round uses a combination of functions that modify the input message and a set of constants derived from the first 64 bits of the irrational number pi.
Once all the blocks have been processed, the final message digest is produced by concatenating the outputs of the four rounds in a specific order. The resulting message digest is a fixed-length, 128-bit string of hexadecimal digits that can be used for digital signatures, data integrity checks, and other cryptographic applications.
Although MD5 was once widely used for digital signatures and data integrity checks, its security has been compromised in recent years due to the discovery of vulnerabilities that allow for collision attacks. As a result, MD5 is no longer considered a secure hash function and has been deprecated in favor of newer, more secure hash functions such as SHA-256 and SHA-3.