Digital Signatures a Key Component of E-Signature Plans

Mary Ellen Power, May 12, 2014

The distinction between electronic signatures and digital signatures is not always understood, but organizations that want to maximize the signing technology need to make sure they understand what each function is capable of accomplishing. A electronic signature is an entity that captures the entire process of somebody signing a document electronically. This can include logs of their time spent on the corresponding Web page and any methods an organization wants to put in place to have defined as the actual signature. A digital signature, on the other hand, is the encryption configuration that is attached to an electronic signature.

Advanced e-signature solutions use digital signatures to attach a specific encrypted code to forms to identify them as belonging to specific users. The software verifies that only that user has opened the form by decrypting that data based on an authorization process. Once the electronic signature has been made, the system encrypts the information again so it can be transported over networks to corporate users who are able to use the digital signature to ensure the entire process was secure and properly authorized.

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A digital signature is part of an e-signature solution, and there are a few reasons why they are particularly valuable:

1. Authenticating users
Authorizations are increasingly difficult to manage in a technology world that transports data freely between smartphones, tablets and more traditional computing systems. Having an encryption code that is attached to specific user credentials within the e-signature application makes it much easier to verify that only authorized parties are viewing documents and that the person who signs something or fills out a form is the individual he/she claims to be.

2. Preventing tampering
Encryption ensures that even if data is stolen, it cannot be accessed. There are rare cases when an extremely sophisticated hacker can decrypt an encryption code, but let's just say that if such a person is trying to get into your company's systems, chances are you have a much bigger problem than signature issues on hand. Encryption is so safe and secure that many regulatory guidelines treat it almost like a panacea, making the digital signature extremely important.

Organizations deploying e-signatures need to make sure they work to keep user data safe. Having digital signatures as the foundation provides this security without any unnecessary complexity.

For more details on why digital signatures are so important, take a look at our white paper on e-signature security.