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Posted 9 Jan 2001

CMD5: A C++ Message Digest 5 Class

, 9 Jan 2001
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This C++ class serves as a wrapper for the Message Digest 5 code described in the Internet RFC 1321.


There has been some recent discussion here concerning how to save password information. In general, it is a Very Bad Idea(tm) to just store a password in an application, data file, INI file, registry, or anywhere but in volatile memory.

A better idea than trying to save a password is to save a "cryptological hash" of the password. Cryptographers call this type of hash a "digest". A digest function in this context is just a function that takes a block of text (called "the plaintext") and computes a checksum type number for that block. Cryptological digests have the properties that,

  • It is highly unlikely that different input text will produce the same digest.
  • It is very, very difficult if not totally impossible to get from the digest back to the input plaintext.

Programmers wishing to secure their password data can immediately compute the digest of the password, and then save that. When the user is prompted for a password, the digest of the input password candidate is computed, and this digest is compared against the stored digest. If they are equal, then the user has entered the correct password. Note that the programmer can post the stored hash value on a public web page or a billboard on the highway, and the security of his product is not compromised. He or she has no worries about someone with a hex editor digging out passwords.

Digests may also be used to verify that a message has been transmitted correctly, in a manner similar to cyclic redundancy checks.

A proven digest algorithm is "Message Digest Five" by Ron Rivest (Ron is the ‘R’ in RSA). It is described in Internet RFC 1321, "The MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm". A google search will provide hundreds of links to this RFC, I used the one I found here. This RFC includes a K&R style ‘C’ implementation of the MD5 algorithm. This implementation is a bit awkward to use, so I’ve wrapped it in a simple generic C++ class.  The class is called CMD5. It has only four interesting members:

CMD5();    //default ctor

CMD5(const char* plainText);  //set plaintext in ctor

void setPlainText(const char* plainText);
    // set plaintext with a mutator, it's ok to 
    // to call this multiple times, the digest is 
    // recalculated after each call.
const char* getMD5Digest();
    // access message digest (aka hash), return 0 if
    // plaintext has not been set

To use the class, just set the plain text either in the constructor or with the setPlainText member. The class calls a very slightly modified version of the RFC 1321 code to compute the digest, which is immediately available by calling getMD5Digest.

Here is some pseudo code showing how to use this class:

cout >> "Enter password:"; 
cin >> strUserEnteredPassword;
CMD5 md5((const char*)strUserEnteredPassword));
  (const char*)m_PreviouslyStoredDigestOfTheActualPassword)==0)
    //password is valid
    //user entered incorrect password

To use the class, you need these files:

  • md5class.h and md5class.cpp - The CMD5 C++ code.
  • global.h, MD5.h, md5.c - Slightly modified versions of the RFC 1321 code.

These files are generic C++. The zip file includes a Win32 console app project that includes a main.cpp file. This little program runs the verification examples provided in the RFC. I use STL in this demo, but not in the class itself.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Jim Howard
Web Developer
United States United States
just another c++ developer, except that im really
old, almost 51!

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionPotential flaw Pin
-dZb-13-Sep-11 12:08
member-dZb-13-Sep-11 12:08 
QuestionRestore the password how I can do? Pin
JasonShen11122-Mar-06 21:05
memberJasonShen11122-Mar-06 21:05 
AnswerRe: Restore the password how I can do? Pin
Jim Howard23-Mar-06 5:29
memberJim Howard23-Mar-06 5:29 
General[Small Tip] To reuse CMD5 in your MFC/eVC++4 project Pin
Jae Hyoung Kim18-Sep-05 12:59
memberJae Hyoung Kim18-Sep-05 12:59 
This tip is for those who still have problem with reusing this CMD5 code to MFC/eVC++ project even though tried correcting source/setting several times after having taken advices from this board.
I know some people here have already put some comments on this issue - Thank you Smile | :) -, however, I found this quite confusing.
It took me 30 minutes of correcting the code/setting as you told here to finally succeed compiling: This is why I'm putting new one here now.
Let's get to the point.

1. Copy and paste the files you need to reuse from CMD5 project
2. Add them to your project, compile and check the error messages
3. You will see your compiler says "blah~blah~ Unexpected end of file Blah~"
4. Don't put #include "stdafx.h" to md5c.c!! (Some person here told so... but don't do that!!)
5. Instread, put #include "stdafx.h" to md5class.cpp
5. Just go to project-setting and select C++ tab
6. select "precompiled headers" category and change it to Automatic use of precompiled headers
7. put stdafx.h on the editbox next to "Through Header"
8. rebuild all

This is how it worked out for me at least.
GeneralRe: [Small Tip] To reuse CMD5 in your MFC/eVC++4 project Pin
freaky_flow4-Oct-07 3:56
memberfreaky_flow4-Oct-07 3:56 
General[solved]Re: [Small Tip] To reuse CMD5 in your MFC/eVC++4 project Pin
freaky_flow4-Oct-07 4:56
memberfreaky_flow4-Oct-07 4:56 
Generalsmaller tip Pin
DrJohnAir12-Mar-08 19:40
memberDrJohnAir12-Mar-08 19:40 
GeneralMD5 broken... Pin
Anonymous16-Feb-05 8:47
sussAnonymous16-Feb-05 8:47 
QuestionUnicode? Pin
blongtq2-Mar-04 0:11
memberblongtq2-Mar-04 0:11 
AnswerRe: Unicode? Pin
jeffreyz8-Feb-05 15:49
memberjeffreyz8-Feb-05 15:49 

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