Electronic signatures are gaining popularity among businesses and consumers alike because they provide a convenient way to sign documents without printing and signing paper copies.
A digital certificate is used to create an electronic signature, which is then added to an electronic document. The purpose of an electronic signature is to demonstrate that you sent the document via email or a website rather than signing in person with a pen. Including your digital signature in an email or document allows recipients to confirm that it came from you. A digital certificate is required for this process because it generates a unique encryption key that no one else can use.
The Advantages of Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures have several advantages over traditional paper-based signatures:
- They can be verified in seconds rather than days, saving both parties involved in a transaction time and money.
- They do not necessitate the purchase of expensive fax machines and printers; all you need is an internet connection and your devices, such as a laptop or personal computer (in some cases, a camera or webcam may be required).
- Documents can be sent directly from one person to another via email or any online messaging service, streamlining workflows and increasing the productivity of your workforce.
These are just a few of the advantages that using Digital Signatures in business transactions can provide for you and your team.
Are Digital Signatures and Electronic Signatures the Same Thing?
Although the terms digital and Digital Signatures are frequently used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two. An electronic signature is an umbrella term that encompasses the digital signature.
A digital signature is a mathematical algorithm used for document and data signing. A digital signature, unlike human-readable signatures, cannot be read by humans. It is made up of a string of bits that can be decoded with a secret key (e.g., the private key from a public-private key pair).
Valid digital signatures provide the receiver with reason to believe that the document or email was completed and sent by an authenticated sender (authentication and integrity) and has not been altered or tampered with since it was signed (non-repudiation).
When you buy something online with your credit card, this is an example of an application where digital signatures are useful. The website must verify that you are who you say you are and that your payment was successful. Digital signatures can also be used as part of more complex processes like document management systems and certificate authorities.
Electronic Signatures at Various Levels
Electronic signatures are classified into several levels, each with its own set of features and capabilities. Here is a breakdown of the various levels:
Easy Electronic Signature
The most basic signature type; no identity verification is required. The onus is on the person accepting the document to trust the person signing it. Because there is no verification process, this type of electronic signature is not tamper-proof. This type of signature can be forged by anyone.
These signatures are legally binding in some situations, but most businesses require additional verification.
Electronic Signature Advancement
Identity verification is required for this type of signature. They rely on a certificate that is specific to the document’s signer. The most reliable ones are transmitted via a specific service that can be traced if audits are required. They have been certified by a well-known certificate authority.
This type is more difficult to tamper with because it requires some technical knowledge.
Electronic Signatures that are Qualified
These are a more sophisticated version of the advanced electronic signature. They meet the requirements outlined in the eIDAS regulations (shorthand for electronic identification and trust services). This regulation is critical to the success of cross-border transactions.
A certificate based on a public key generated using appropriate technological means must accompany qualified Digital Signatures (QES). An approved entity, such as a certificate authority, must also verify the signatory beforehand. This identification can be performed in person or remotely via video chat.
This signature type is classified as a digital signature. And is currently one of the highest levels of signature used. This type is used by major corporations and banks because it provides the highest level of security required to ensure the safe transmission of data.
Finally, Digital Signatures are a convenient and secure method of signing documents and agreements online. As technology advances, the types of Digital Signatures and how they work may change. Some of the more tamper-proof methods may become vulnerable to hackers, necessitating the development of new methods to combat this.