SHA-256 and SHA-512 are novel hash functions computed with 32-bit and 64-bit words, respectively. They use different shift amounts and additive constants, but their structures are otherwise virtually identical, differing only in the number of rounds. SHA-224 and SHA-384 are simply truncated versions of the first two, computed with different initial values. SHA-512/224 and SHA-512/256 are also truncated versions of SHA-512, but the initial values are generated using the method described in Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) PUB 180-4. SHA-2 was published in 2001 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) a U.S. federal standard (FIPS). The SHA-2 family of algorithms are patented in US patent 6829355. The United States has released the patent under a royalty-free license.
Currently, the best public attacks break preimage resistance for 52 out of 64 rounds of SHA-256 or 57 out of 80 rounds of SHA-512, and collision resistance for 46 out of 64 rounds of SHA-256.
SHA-256 and SHA-512, and, to a lesser degree, SHA-224 and SHA-384 are prone to length extension attacks, rendering it insecure for some applications. It is thus generally recommended to switch to SHA-3 for 512 bit hashes and to use SHA-512/224 and SHA-512/256 instead of SHA-224 and SHA-256. This also happens to be faster than SHA-224 and SHA-256 on x86-64, since SHA-512 works on 64 bit instead of 32 bit words.