Why Care Block?
I applaud all of you who have made it this far, but unfortunately things are going to get super boring! Well, besides applause I’d also like to take a sentence to thank you for reading this content: whether you’re reading this out of boredom, coercion, to make fun of it, or you just have a general interest, I’d like to extend my gratitude.
Switching back to the good stuff, today we’re talking about hash functions. Think hash browns *delicious* - they’re sliced, diced, and fried to a golden brown; drenched or drizzled with hot sauce or ketchup (I prefer Cholula and Tabasco) and resembles nothing like the raw potato it once was. Now, take your hash browns and try to reconstruct the original potato. “No!” you’d say, “That’s really hard.” Keep in mind this post is about security, from a non-cryptographic scientist or security expert, so anticipate a lot more potato metaphors because that’s about all I know about security.
This post is really about making the Twitter API work within Stata without any outside plugins or packages. To do so, we must find a way to recreate the HMAC-SHA1 algorithm which is quite difficult without our previous toolset we designed, so make sure you’ve gone over the bitwise operators. Once we’re on the same page, we can start getting into this hash function in order to send requests using Twitter’s API so that you can retrieve you beautiful, crispy hash brown data in return.
HMAC-SHA1 is the type of procedure we’re trying to reproduce from the Wikipedia article available here. I didn’t care much for it. It didn’t explain what it is, what it was really doing, or why we should care at a simple level so that someone less savvy (like me) could understand just what the fuss is all about. Both HMAC and SHA1 are procedures. HMAC stands for Hash Message Authentication Code and is the procedure we use to combine a message with a secret key whereas SHA-1 stands for Security Hash Algorithm 1, which was made by the NSA and is used to break a message into a corresponding hash string with a fixed block size. Together, they make sure that the integrity of the data hasn’t been compromised and that you’re not sending your raw secret message over the internet…series of tubes. The nice thing about the SHA-1 algorithm is that very slight changes, say replacing a single character in the message, dramatically changes the resulting hash so that it’s difficult to crack (though apparently not secure enough for today’s standards). Remember, HMAC is the main procedure to combine a secret key with the message and SHA-1 is just the type of hash function implemented; but you probably don’t care that much and just want to see the code. So let’s get started!
SHA-1 has a lot of destructive procedures, a lot of breaking bits into smaller bits, and a lot of the previously developed bitwise functions. Let’s see a quick example of this in action.
Say I have the string phrase "The Ore-Ida brand is a syllabic abbreviation of Oregon and Idaho" and I want to run the SHA-1 Function on it.
mata: sha1("The Ore-Ida brand is a syllabic abbreviation of Oregon and Idaho") The results is (hex): 156a5e19b6301e43794afc5e5aff0584e25bfbe7 In Base64: FWpeGbYwHkN5SvxeWv8FhOJb++c=
Good luck figuring out the original string from the Base64 encoding. Now remember, this is not a post about theory or reasoning behind the SHA-1 procedure; this post is about making it work. Therefore, the advanced Stata user who wishes to replicate/improve this code might find this next section interesting. Here are some of my observations regarding repackaging the SHA-1 function.
Compared to SHA-1, the HMAC procedure is a walk in the potato fields… it’s easy as potatoes… I’m running out of references here. Did you know that the potato was the first vegetable to be grown in space? If astronauts could do that with potatoes, we can certainly make HMAC-SHA1 work with Stata. There’s really just a three step process at play. The HMAC procedure takes two inputs: a key and a message.
Well, this post (and the previous one) has been filled with a little more technical jargon than I planned. I like to keep these posts fun and poignant, but this material is for the dedicated and serves as a reference for those who want to expand Stata’s capabilities (even if it takes a little longer than expected). This new Mata function allows Stata to perform the HMAC-SHA1 procedure which is vital for enabling Twitter requests through Stata so that the entire process can be contained within one do-file. Here’s an example of the function in action:
. mata: hmac_sha1("Secret Key", "Message to be sent") d5052c13e868ea7c932be9279752e9e67c8195bd . mata: hmac_sha1("Secret Key", "Message to be Sent") f67f5f90132583de85abf0d61fed2a2144be1f04
You can see how the examples show that slight changes in the message dramatically change the output. Feel free to download the process below. All subroutines are included for your convenience. Good luck!
Will Matsuoka is the creator of W=M/Stata - he likes creativity and simplicity, taking pictures of food, competition, and anything that can be analyzed.