Secret sharing schemes create an effective method to safeguard a secret by dividing it among several participants. By using hash functions and the herding hashes technique, we first set up a (t + 1, n) threshold scheme that is perfect and ideal and then extend it to schemes for any general access structure. The schemes can be further set up as proactive or verifiable if necessary. The setup and recovery of the secret are efficient because of the fast calculation of the hash function. The proposed scheme is flexible because of the use of existing hash functions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.