A hash value is a numeric value of a fixed length that uniquely identifies data. Hash values represent large amounts of data as much smaller numeric values, so they are used with digital signatures. You can sign a hash value more efficiently than signing the larger value. Hash values are also useful for verifying the integrity of data sent through insecure channels. The hash value of received data can be compared to the hash value of data as it was sent to determine whether the data was altered.
Data can be compared to a hash value to determine its integrity. Usually, data is hashed at a certain time and the hash value is protected in some way. At a later time, the data can be hashed again and compared to the protected value. If the hash values match, the data has not been altered. If the values do not match, the data has been corrupted. For this system to work, the protected hash must be encrypted or kept secret from all untrusted parties.