Today’s world is a digital world. A place of online meetings, virtual conferences, cloud-stored documents, and… digital signatures.
An electronic signature, which has been recognised by law as a legally binding for over a decade now, is any electronic symbol attached to a corresponding document or other record. A very specific kind of electronic signature is a digital signature. While electronic signature is, in a sense an equivalent of a wet signature, a digital signature in addition also guarantees the integrity of the document. Let us look at this and some other reasons to use it.
Let us start with the most important one. Compared to an electronic or other type of signatures, a digital signature is more secure. With the use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which is a technology using asymmetric cryptography, usually the RSA algorithm, an individual (or even a machine, a software, or a process) is assigned a digital certificate and with it an identity. When a document is signed, the hash value of the document is encrypted with your public key – one of the components of your digital certificate. The signature that is produced this way offers the highest level of security, guaranteed the integrity of the document, and guarantees non-repudiation.
Global Acceptance and Legal Compliance
The use of digital signatures as such is being globally accepted, with laws being passed that make them legally binding. In Europe, for example, the Regulation No 910/2014, known as eIDAS, entered into force throughout Europe on July 1, 2016. It was created to establish rules for electronic identification and trust services, thus enabling trusted electronic transactions between individuals and organisations. One part of its regulations is also dedicated to digital signatures, recognising three levels: electronic signature, advanced electronic signature, and qualified electronic signature.
Cost-effective and Time-saving
Switching from traditional to digital signing method enables companies to obtain signatures from either third parties or their costumers faster, more efficiently, with less costs. There is no need for physical paper and pens, no file servers, cabinets, no printing, scanning, no fees for postal couriers. So although setting up a system for digital signatures requires an investment, in the long run it saves money.
Except for the initial stages of introducing a new solution, these signatures ensure better workflow efficiency. As was already mentioned, the managing and tracking of documents becomes easier and faster. Additionally, organising information and searching for particular documents is made simpler with no physical papers being stored in cabinets or boxes. Everything is digital and available.
Prepared by: Nastja Cepak, PhD Cryptography / CREAplus