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HMAC is a protocol used for cryptographically authenticating messages. It can use any kind of cryptographic functions, and its strengh depends on the underlying function (SHA1 or MD5 for instance), and the chosen secret key. With such a combination, the HMAC verification algorithm is then known with a compound name such as HMAC-SHA1.
HMAC is used to ensure both integrity and authentication.
- HMAC on Wikipedia
RFC 2104 on IETF