sha256 is an algorithm to map a string of any length to a 256bit string(so called hash). The input of the algorithm is a string of any length but the output of the algorithm is of fixed length 256bit.
How is the sha256 algorithm implemented? If you search for the implementation details of sha256 algorithm, you’ll soon be confused by the complex operations, functions, length of all kinds of objects, etc. that are involved in the algorithm. But the computation is in fact very simple.
You know the result of sha256 is a 256bit string. That string can be divided to 8 32bit units, which are called words:h0,h1,h2,…,h7. Our mission is to calculate the 8 words. The 8 words are calculated in an evoluted way. First, we give 8 initial values to h0,…,h7. Then, we divide the input messages to many 512bit chunks M0,M1,…Mn. We use M0 to update h0,…,h7 to h0′,…h7′(i.e., h0′,…,h7′ absorb the values in M0). We use M1 to update h0′,…,h7′ to h0”,…h7”(i.e, h0”,..h7” now have information obtained from M0 and M1). We continue this process to the last message chunk Mn, and bring h0,…,h7 to their final values which is the hash of the message.
To understand sha256 algorithm, don’t look at the mathematical equations, do not look at the diagram that seems to visualize the computation process(in fact, it gives more confusion than the math equations). Instead, you need to read the following pseudo code carefully.
Note: All variables are unsigned 32 bits and wrap modulo 232 when calculating Initialize variables (first 32 bits of the fractional parts of the square roots of the first 8 primes 2..19): h0 := 0x6a09e667 h1 := 0xbb67ae85 h2 := 0x3c6ef372 h3 := 0xa54ff53a h4 := 0x510e527f h5 := 0x9b05688c h6 := 0x1f83d9ab h7 := 0x5be0cd19 Initialize table of round constants (first 32 bits of the fractional parts of the cube roots of the first 64 primes 2..311): k[0..63] := 0x428a2f98, 0x71374491, 0xb5c0fbcf, 0xe9b5dba5, 0x3956c25b, 0x59f111f1, 0x923f82a4, 0xab1c5ed5, 0xd807aa98, 0x12835b01, 0x243185be, 0x550c7dc3, 0x72be5d74, 0x80deb1fe, 0x9bdc06a7, 0xc19bf174, 0xe49b69c1, 0xefbe4786, 0x0fc19dc6, 0x240ca1cc, 0x2de92c6f, 0x4a7484aa, 0x5cb0a9dc, 0x76f988da, 0x983e5152, 0xa831c66d, 0xb00327c8, 0xbf597fc7, 0xc6e00bf3, 0xd5a79147, 0x06ca6351, 0x14292967, 0x27b70a85, 0x2e1b2138, 0x4d2c6dfc, 0x53380d13, 0x650a7354, 0x766a0abb, 0x81c2c92e, 0x92722c85, 0xa2bfe8a1, 0xa81a664b, 0xc24b8b70, 0xc76c51a3, 0xd192e819, 0xd6990624, 0xf40e3585, 0x106aa070, 0x19a4c116, 0x1e376c08, 0x2748774c, 0x34b0bcb5, 0x391c0cb3, 0x4ed8aa4a, 0x5b9cca4f, 0x682e6ff3, 0x748f82ee, 0x78a5636f, 0x84c87814, 0x8cc70208, 0x90befffa, 0xa4506ceb, 0xbef9a3f7, 0xc67178f2 Pre-processing: append the bit '1' to the message append k bits '0', where k is the minimum number >= 0 such that the resulting message length (in bits) is congruent to 448(mod 512) append length of message (before pre-processing), in bits, as 64-bit big-endian integer Process the message in successive 512-bit chunks: break message into 512-bit chunks for each chunk break chunk into sixteen 32-bit big-endian words w[0..15] Extend the sixteen 32-bit words into sixty-four 32-bit words: for i from 16 to 63 s0 := (w[i-15] rightrotate 7) xor (w[i-15] rightrotate 18) xor(w[i-15] rightshift 3) s1 := (w[i-2] rightrotate 17) xor (w[i-2] rightrotate 19) xor(w[i-2] rightshift 10) w[i] := w[i-16] + s0 + w[i-7] + s1 Initialize hash value for this chunk: a := h0 b := h1 c := h2 d := h3 e := h4 f := h5 g := h6 h := h7 Main loop: for i from 0 to 63 s0 := (a rightrotate 2) xor (a rightrotate 13) xor(a rightrotate 22) maj := (a and b) xor (a and c) xor(b and c) t2 := s0 + maj s1 := (e rightrotate 6) xor (e rightrotate 11) xor(e rightrotate 25) ch := (e and f) xor ((not e) and g) t1 := h + s1 + ch + k[i] + w[i] h := g g := f f := e e := d + t1 d := c c := b b := a a := t1 + t2 Add this chunk's hash to result so far: h0 := h0 + a h1 := h1 + b h2 := h2 + c h3 := h3 + d h4 := h4 + e h5 := h5 + f h6 := h6 + g h7 := h7 + h Produce the final hash value (big-endian): digest = hash = h0 append h1 append h2 append h3 append h4 append h5 append h6 append h7