What is an electronic signature?
7 min reading
In this article, we will tell you all about electronic signature and how safe it is.
What is an electronic signature?
Whether you are a newbie or an expert in electronic signatures, an e-signature at first instance will cause someone to think of the security of his assets given that signatures grant access to very important documents of any human being or company. With the rapid evolution of the digital world, anything can be forged. This article will be talking about electronic signatures and their authenticity.
Gone are the days when you had to print out a document, sign it, scan it before sending it by email. With the introduction of the electronic signature, all the stress seems to have disappeared. An electronic signature, also known as an electronic signature, is a digital signature on a special digital platform. It is a cryptographic mechanism often used to implement electronic signatures. It is designed to provide the signer with a secure method of identification to ensure a transaction is not breached. This means that an electronic signature allows you to say goodbye to filing cabinets. By speeding up the time it takes to complete administrative tasks, electronic signatures save time on the things that matter in your business.
How are electronic signatures created?
It is however very easy to create an e-signature given that signature software is available online. You can either put your signature directly into a document with your mouse button, or you can enter your name, which will automatically be presented as an electronic signature. The first step will be to create your signature using a signature or stylus or if you are using a mobile device you could sign directly with your finger. Secondly, in case you used a piece of paper to create your signature, then take a picture of it using your phone or camera and upload it to the website you are using to create the e-signature and use the cursor to draw your signature.
Benefits of electronic signatures
All documents are signed without a stamp, saving paper. Just as we mentioned earlier, before electronic signatures surfaced, every document which needed to be signed required that it be printed and signed by hand or a wet-signature even though electronic signatures saved one from printing papers here and there. Also, all documents are sent via email while saving postage. This means that you can sign a document without having to move or attend a meeting and can store these documents digitally, eliminating the need for paperwork. With digital encryption and audit trails associated with digital signatures, electronic signatures are sealed, stored, and protected from hackers and security breaches.
Finally, before the advent of electronic signatures, forensic examination relied on establishing handwriting and the words of witnesses. Electronic signatures document the time, date, IP address, and unique user identification key used at the time of signing.
In terms of cryptography, we are talking more about digital signatures. Digital signatures are public-key primitives. A digital signature is a cryptographic value that is calculated from the data and a secret key is known only to the signer. How are you going to create a digital signature and how does it work?
First of all, anyone who accepts this key is a public-private owner. These keys are commonly used for encryption/decryption. Signing is done with a private key, also called a signing key, while the verification process is done with a public key. This private key then passes the data to a hash function and also generates a hash of the data. Once this is done, the signature key sends the information to the signature algorithm, which then creates a signature based on the specified hash.
For verification, the hash value and the result of the verification algorithm are compared. Because the digital signature is created with the signer’s private key, the signer cannot opt out of signing the data in the future. The importance of digital signatures relies on message authentication, data integrity, and reliability.
While many still use the traditional signature method, for most business proposals, electronic signatures are the preferred method for documenting signatures on the Internet. By adding public-key encryption to a digital signature scheme, you can create a cryptographic system that can provide four basic elements of security.
Many people often think that electronic signatures are the same as digital signatures. However, these concepts are quite different even in their modus operandi. It can be defined as a technique that binds a person or entity to digital data which could be independently verified by the receiver or any third party. Indeed, this scheme is based on public-key cryptography and anyone operating on this scheme will have to obtain a public and a private key. The private key is known as the signature key used for signing while the public key is used for verification and is known as the verification key. Thus, these key pairs are used differently for encryption/decryption and signing/verifying. In other words, the private key which is the signature key is used for signing while the public key is used for verifying and is known as the verification key. However, note that many digital communications prefer using encrypted messages to plain texts just to enhance confidentiality.
Let’s provide a simple illustration of how it works. The signer feeds data to the hash function and generates a hash of data. The Hash value and signature key are then fed to the signature algorithm which produces the digital signature on the given hash. Signature is conjoined to the data and then both are sent to the verifier. The verifier on his end feeds the digital signature and verification key into the verification algorithm, the hash value and output algorithm are compared, and based on the comparison result, the verifier decides whether the digital signature is valid. Given that the digital signature is created by the private key of the signer and he alone is in the custody of this key, he, therefore, cannot disavow the data in the future.
Despite the fact that electronic signatures may seem identical when they are mentioned, they, however, differ a lot. Here are some of the differences that exist between them.
Firstly, they differ in the domain of purpose. While an electronic signature is used to verify a document, the source of the document and the author, the purpose of digital identity on the other hand is to secure a document so that it does not get tampered with by unauthorized people. This is done with the implementation of private and public keys.
Secondly, electronic signatures are not regulated and for this reason, they are less favorable to a lot of people and states since their authenticity is questionable. However, digital signatures are regulated and are authorized by certification authorities who are third parties that have been entrusted with the duty of performing these tasks. In addition, digital signatures comprise features that are meant to secure the document.
Finally, with the electronic signature, it may be difficult to identify the real owner of the signature since it is not certified, that is the authenticity as well as the integrity of the document whereas with digital signature since the signer cannot repudiate any information attached to the data, it is very easy to identify the owner and also it is very easy to notice if the document has been tampered with since every unauthorized modification will lead to a failure in the digital signature verification.
Over and above, electronic signatures are very vital for some activities given that they work in compliance with applicable laws and regulations as well as industry standards. It however has some lapses which have been enumerated in the differences but that does not annul its importance. For everyone needing to more secure with documents and information, digital signatures are of better use since it is legally binding and authentic by signature even though even traceability to the owner of the document
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