OpenVPN offers the use of various digest algorithms (see list below). I've read that the the digests, printed with a leading RSA-, DSA- or ecdsa-with- are simply due to a print function in OpenSSL and do not affect the algorithm mentioned afterwards (e.g. RSA-SHA, DSA-SHA and SHA, are all the same and can be equally used).

What I do not understand are the differences between the SHA1 digests SHA, SHA1, DSA-SHA1-old and RSA-SHA1-2. All share the same 160 bit digest size.

Complete list of --show-digests:

MD5 128 bit digest size
RSA-MD5 128 bit digest size
SHA 160 bit digest size
RSA-SHA 160 bit digest size
SHA1 160 bit digest size
RSA-SHA1 160 bit digest size
DSA-SHA 160 bit digest size
DSA-SHA1-old 160 bit digest size
DSA-SHA1 160 bit digest size
RSA-SHA1-2 160 bit digest size
DSA 160 bit digest size
RIPEMD160 160 bit digest size
RSA-RIPEMD160 160 bit digest size
MD4 128 bit digest size
RSA-MD4 128 bit digest size
ecdsa-with-SHA1 160 bit digest size
RSA-SHA256 256 bit digest size
RSA-SHA384 384 bit digest size
RSA-SHA512 512 bit digest size
RSA-SHA224 224 bit digest size
SHA256 256 bit digest size
SHA384 384 bit digest size
SHA512 512 bit digest size
SHA224 224 bit digest size
whirlpool 512 bit digest size

With OpenVPN 2.4.0 and OpenSSL 1.0.2k

Is this again an odd way of OpenSSL printing digests and they all simply represent SHA1?

edit: Interestingly, there's no plain SHA nor a DSA-SHA1-old, when you openssl list -digest-algorithms.

  • The DSA- and RSA- refer to the digital signature algorithm and the RSA cryptographic algorithm respectively. They are signed digests. I don't know what the -old or -2 mean, though. Similarly I don't understand why there is SHA and SHA1 (probably for legacy reasons...?). Mar 2, 2017 at 9:07
  • I realised that the RSA- algorithms just map to the corresponding algorithm without RSA- (see openssl list -digest-algorithms), but there's no mention of DSA at all. Mar 2, 2017 at 9:12

1 Answer 1


The reason they have the same digest size is because the same message digest algorithm is used. The difference is what is being 'digested'.

  • SHA and SHA1 are likely equivalent, and both should provide a 'normal' SHA1 hash (i.e. something you could potentially replicate by running sha1sum INPUT)
  • DSA-SHA1-old and RSA-SHA1-2 are used for digitally signed digests - the details aren't necessarily relevant here, but basically, this avoids a MITM being able to just replace a payload + digest with something arbitrary (because a key is involved, the MITM would need to know that key to generate a valid signature for a given piece of data).

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