In the past, signatures were made with ink on paper, making it difficult to sign and send documents remotely. With the advent of electronic documents and the Internet, electronic signatures have become a popular and efficient way to sign and send documents online.
In this article, we will discuss what an electronic signature is, the importance of authenticating electronic signatures, and the various methods that can be used for authentication.
What Is an Electronic Signature?
An electronic signature, also known as an e-signature, is a digital representation of a traditional signature used to sign documents and agreements electronically. E-signatures provide a convenient and secure way to sign and send documents online, eliminating the need for paper documents and in-person signatures. They are becoming increasingly popular in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, and government.
How do electronic signatures work?
There are several methods for creating electronic signatures, each of which provides a certain level of security and compliance with local laws and regulations. Let's take a look at some of the most common methods for creating electronic signatures and how they work.
- Simple electronic signature (SES): This is a simple form of electronic signature where you can type your name or use a handwritten signature image. This type of electronic signature is often used for informal documents and does not provide a high level of security.
- Advanced electronic signature (AES): To confirm the identity of the signer, this type of electronic signature uses digital certificates and biometric data. It provides a higher level of security than a traditional electronic signature and is commonly used for legal and financial documents. The procedure for creating an advanced electronic signature usually involves the following steps:
- The signer must issue a digital certificate that contains information about the signer's identity.
- A biometric signature, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition
- Qualified electronic signature (QES): This type of electronic signature is the most secure and legally enforceable in many countries. To ensure the legitimacy of the signer and the document, a qualified certificate and advanced technology are used, such as a secure signature creation device (SSCD) or secure signature card (SSC). Two keys are required for this procedure:
- a private key with which the signer signs the document
- A public key that is used to verify the signature
In this article, you will learn more about the different types and benefits of electronic signatures, as well as a modern alternative for signing contracts.
How to authenticate electronic signatures?
There are several ways to authenticate electronic signatures, and the best method depends on your organization's specific needs. Here are some common methods for authenticating electronic signatures:
1. digital certificates
- Digital certificates are electronic documents that contain information about the identity of the person signing the document and a public key that can be used to verify the signature. Digital certificates are issued by a trusted third party, such as a certificate authority, and can be verified using a digital signature verification program.
When the user signs the document, the signature is created by encrypting a hash of the document with the signer's private key. The signature is then attached to the document along with the signer's certificate.
- Passwords are a simple and easy means of authenticating electronic signatures. The person signing the document must enter a password before the signature can be executed. This password is then verified by the software or system receiving the signature to ensure that it is the correct person signing the document.
3. biometric data
- Biometric signatures are captured using a biometric device such as a fingerprint scanner or handwriting recognition device. The signature is then checked against a database of biometric data to ensure that it is the correct person signing the document.
Biometric signatures are generally considered very secure because they are based on unique physical characteristics that are difficult to copy or steal.
4. two-factor authentication
- Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring the signer to provide two forms of identification. This can be a password and a fingerprint, or a password and a unique code sent to a phone number.
- Time stamping is a method of recording the time and date of the signature. It can be used to prove that the signature was made at a specific time and to prevent the document from being tampered with after it has been signed.
Regardless of which method you use to authenticate electronic signatures, it is important to remember that the electronic signature itself should always be valid and legally enforceable. This can be achieved by choosing a reliable service provider, implementing sound security measures, and keeping accurate records of all electronic signatures, for example, in the form of contract software.