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The Digital Signature Standard (DSS) is a U.S. government standard (FIPS 186-3) describing a cryptographic algorithm for producing a digital signature.[1]


Digital signatures are used to detect unauthorized modifications to data and to authenticate the identity of the signatory. In addition, the recipient of signed data can use a digital signature as evidence in demonstrating to a third party that the signature was, in fact, generated by the claimed signatory. This is known as non-repudiation, since the signatory cannot easily repudiate the signature at a later time.

How it works[]

Signature generation uses a private key to generate a digital signature; signature verification uses a public key that corresponds to, but is not the same as, the private key. Each signatory possesses a private and public key pair. Public keys may be known by the public; private keys are kept secret. Anyone can verify the signature by employing the signatory’s public key. Only the user that possesses the private key can perform signature generation.

A hash function is used in the signature generation process to obtain a condensed version of the data to be signed; the condensed version of the data is often called a message digest. The message digest is input to the digital signature algorithm to generate the digital signature. The hash functions to be used are specified in the Secure Hash Standard (SHS), FIPS 180-3. FIPS approved digital signature algorithms shall be used with an appropriate hash function that is specified in the SHS.

The digital signature is provided to the intended verifier along with the signed data. The verifying entity verifies the signature by using the claimed signatory’s public key and the same hash function that was used to generate the signature. Similar procedures may be used to generate and verify signatures for both stored and transmitted data.


  1. A digital signature is represented in a computer as a string of bits. A digital signature is computed using a set of rules and a set of parameters that allow the identity of the signatory and the integrity of the data to be verified. Digital signatures may be generated on both stored and transmitted data.

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