The widespread use of digital signatures has raised tons of questions. Most of these questions are related to user security. Numerous individuals and businesses see the benefit of transitioning from the traditional method of signing documents. The traditional method requires printing, scanning, hand-signing, and re-scanning of the documents and they are a huge security threat. Overall, they’re unsure how the digital signature verification process works.
The solution is to remove the mystery regarding the digital signature verification process.
The terms digital signature and electronic signature are often used interchangeably, but they are very different from each other. The first point is understanding the difference between electronic and digital signatures. Digital signatures are a type of highly secure electronic signature, and they have a robust verification process.
eSignature or Electronic signature on the other hand refers to any virtual mark (Like an image file) that is included in a document to signify approval. Digital signatures work by leveraging an encrypted system that is based on a standard technological framework called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Certified authorities provide individuals with a digital certificate, which is stored by them mostly on a USB stick.
Whenever the individual wants to sign a new document, they’ll have to attach their digital signature to the document using special software. An encrypted “hash” that is specific to that document is then created. The individual that’s sending the document then has to match the digital hash with a public digital certificate, in turn verifying the signature.
Most digital signature providers use a mathematical algorithm to generate digital signature keys.
Whenever a signer digitally signs a document, a new cryptographic hash is created for the document. This is done to verify the authenticity and integrity of the document. The recipient of the digital document can decrypt the encrypted hash by using the sender’s public key certificate. Once that is done, a new cryptographic hash is created from the receiver’s end.
While verifying digital signatures, both the cryptographic hash are compared to check their authenticity. If the hashes match, the document is original and it hasn’t been tampered with.
Over time, digital signatures have become a norm for all businesses. In many regions, including parts of North America, the European Union, and APAC, digital signatures are considered legally binding and they hold the same value as traditional document signatures.
In addition to digital document signing, they’re also used for financial transactions, email service providers, and software distribution. Digital signatures are crucial in specific industries where authenticity and integrity of digital identity are important.
Industry-standard technology known as public key infrastructure makes sure to authenticate a digital signature is valid.
Using digital signatures that are supported by PKI or PGP improves their strength and significantly reduces the possibility of security threats. You can reduce security issues that often come along with transmitting public keys, by simply verifying that the key belongs to the sender, and verifying the identity of the sender. Verifying the identity of the sender is crucial when you’re dealing with a digital signature.
The level of security of the digital signature is completely dependent on how secure the private key is. Without PGP or PKI, proving someone’s identity or revoking a compromised key is next to impossible. If the private key is not well protected, it could allow malicious actors to assume the identity of someone else and go through the process without proper verification.
By relying on third-party verification services, businesses and individuals can verify digital signatures. This can ensure that the digital signatures are not being used by someone who doesn’t have the authority.
As paperless, and online transactions are growing day by day, the use of digital signatures can help you protect and secure the integrity of your data. By understanding and using digital signatures, you can protect yourself, the information you share, confidential documents, and transactions.
And how are electronic signatures verified? Numerous legislation like the ESIGN (The Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act), UETA (The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act), and eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and trust Services) offer the validity of electronic signatures.
The process for verifying electronic signatures is a lot similar to traditional methods that are used to verify physical pen and ink signatures. Verification is essentially about proving an electronic signature was made by the intended signee by verifying the data, location, and time of the signature. This helps in ensuring that the document wasn’t tampered with.