Digital Signatures FAQ
Just heard about digital signatures and need to know more? Perhaps you are already an industry expert who requires more detailed information on Digital Signatures prior to making a purchase decision?
What are digital signatures?
Digital signatures take the concept of traditional paper-based signing and turn it into a digital "fingerprint". Digital signatures enable you to easily migrate from cumbersome paper-based processes to a secure and efficient paper-free environment. This "fingerprint", or coded message, is unique to both the signer and the document. This ensures that the person who signed is indeed the originator of the message. This fingerprint cannot be reused or reassigned to anyone else at any time. The digital signature authenticates the originator of the message and ascertains that the message has not been modified after sending. If any changes were made to the document after it was signed, they would automatically invalidate the signature, thereby protecting against forgery. Digital signatures help organizations sustain signer authenticity, accountability, data integrity and non-repudiation of documents and transactions.
What is the difference between digital and electronic signatures? .
There is a clear difference between electronic and digital signatures, though these terms are often used interchangeably: Digital signatures (sometimes referred to as Advanced or Secure Electronic Signatures) are a result of a cryptographic operation. The technology behind digital signatures is an industry standard known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which guarantees data integrity and non-repudiation of transactions. The digital signature cannot be copied, tampered or altered. On the other hand, Electronic signatures are electronic images that are physically or logically attached to the signed data. Adding a sentence “I, John Doe, sign this document” is good enough to be considered as an electronic signature; however, it is clear that electronic signatures are easy to forge, unlike Digital Signatures.
Does the electronic signature seal the document contents?
Yes! Any changes made to the document's data, even altering a single letter, will invalidate the electronic signature validation process. The decrypted message will not match the encrypted message which would result in signature failure. Digital Signature solution ensures maximum security and compliance to core business processes.
Note: The electronic signature does not prevent a document from being changed and later re-signed.
Digital and Graphical signatures
Secured Signing and CoSign products introduce a solution that merges both digital technologies and electronic graphical signatures (see illustration). This combination offers both unforgeable digital signatures and visual identification of the signer, using his/her visual graphical signature. The products provide users with an electronic representation (graphical image) of their handwritten signature which integrates with a digital signature on the electronic document. Both the graphical signature image and the digital signature are secure and easily deployed. The signature can also be validated ensuring the authenticity of the user.
What happens to the digital signature if changes are made to the signed document?
Any changes made to a signed document will automatically invalidate the digital signature. After such tampering, when a receiver attempts to validate the digital signature they receive notification that the signature is invalid. In Microsoft Word for example, a red cross appears on the signature. Users can view additional information about the signature and the signer's credentials.
Is digital signature legally binding?
Sure. In 1999, the EU passed the “EU Directive for Electronic Signatures” and on June 30, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act ("ESIGN"), which made signed electronic contracts and documents as legally binding as a paper-based contract. in Australasia Electronic Transactions Act established the legal frame work to do business in electronic format. Section 10 describes the signature requirements. Learn more about digital signature legislation.