Understanding Digital Signatures, Part I
Security & Legality
As the security market has exploded in recent years, so too has confusion over digital and electronic signatures. Are they one in the same? The short answer is no. The two are often considered synonymous when they actually represent different products and services. Electronic signatures vs. digital signatures An electronic signature, like its paper equivalent, is a legal concept. Its purpose is to capture the intent of a signer to agree to and be bound by the terms and conditions of a contract or agreement. As an expression of intent, signing involves a specific act, such as clicking a button or entering a password. Simply typing your name in a Word document could meet the legal definition of an electronic signature. However, this would be risky in most situations since the lack of security would leave your document and signatures vulnerable to tampering. As a result, capturing intent combined with the security and tamper-proofing provided by digital signature technology will result in a legal electronic signature. The importance of digital signatures Sending documents for e-signature is a quick and easy process. Once all e-signatures are captured, look for an e-signature solution that packages and secures the final e-signed document using a digital signature. The e-signature solution should apply the digital signature at two levels:
- At the signature level to prevent tampering with the signature itself; and
- At the document level, to prevent tampering with the document’s contents.