Immediately following this years CRYPTO conference in Santa Barbara, NIST held The Second Cryptographic Hash Workshop. From that link, you can access the papers and presentations from the workshop. This, as some of you might know, is the think-tank for ideas that may eventually result in a new hash function standard. For now, the SHA-256 is a good interim standard, but we’re going to need something new. I, as are many others, would love to see an AES-style competition for a new hash function standard. If it comes anywhere close to the success of the AES selection process, it would be yet another job-well-done by the cryptographic community.
I’m all for it. Until then, if you need a standard, for whatever the reason, go with SHA-256 for a 128-bit level of security. If you don’t need a standard, and are flexible to choose any primitive, I’d suggest looking at Whirlpool; it’s based on the wide trail design strategy that’s found in Rijndael’s (AES’s) design, and was co-designed by Vincent Rijmen (The “Rij” in “Rijndael.) Until next time – cheers!