[Python-Dev] Make str/bytes hash algorithm pluggable?

Christian Heimes christian at python.org
Thu Oct 3 20:42:28 CEST 2013


some of you may have seen that I'm working on a PEP for a new hash API
and new algorithms for hashing of bytes and str. The PEP has three major
aspects. It introduces DJB's SipHash as secure hash algorithm, chances
the hash API to process blocks of data instead characters and it adds an
API to make the algorithm pluggable. A draft is already available [1].

Now I got some negative feedback on the 'pluggable' aspect of the new
PEP on Twitter [2]. I like to get feedback from you before I finalize
the PEP.

The PEP proposes a pluggable hash API for a couple of reasons. I like to
give users of Python a chance to replace a secure hash algorithm with a
faster hash algorithm. SipHash is about as fast as FNV for common cases
as our implementation of FNV process only 8 to 32 bits per cycle instead
of 32 or 64. I haven't actually benchmarked how a faster hash algorithm
affects the a real program, though ...

I also like to make it easier to replace the hash algorithm with a
different one in case a vulnerability is found. With the new API vendors
and embedders have an easy and clean way to use their own hash
implementation or an optimized version that is more suitable for their
platform, too. For example a mobile phone vendor could provide an
optimized implementation with ARM NEON intrinsics.

On which level should Python support a pluggable hash algorithm?

1) Compile time option: The hash code is compiled into Python's core.
Embedders have to recompile Python with different options to replace the

2) Library option: A hash algorithm can be added and one avaible hash
algorithm can be set before Py_Initialize() is called for the first
time. The approach gives embedders the chance the set their own
algorithm without recompiling Python.

3) Startup options: Like 2) plus an additional environment variable and
command line argument to select an algorithm. With a startup option
users can select a different algorithm themselves.


[1] http://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0456/
[2] https://twitter.com/EDEADLK/status/385572395777818624

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