A Brief History
The world has become a global village and today millions of people conduct business and transactions in many parts of the world without having to be there in person. This is one of the reasons why electronic and digital signatures have become popular in this digital era.
You’ll be surprised to learn that electronic signature is not a new phenomenon. The very initial ones were developed and used in the mid-9th century using a pantelegraph, which was a machine used for transferring images using telegraph lines. At the time, electronic signatures were popularly used by bankers to send and receive important documents from their clients. The pantelegraph preceded the fax machine which gained its popularity in the 1980s.
Then came the computer era which took the world by storm and more and more people started signing and sending documents online. There was however a problem, the electronic signature methods made it easy for unscrupulous individuals to manipulate documents and the signatures as well.
In an attempt to fix the problem, the first algorithm for digital signing was developed in the year 1976. Although nascent, it somewhat managed to make it a little difficult for individuals to influence documents and signatures but was still not adequate.
It was not until the year 1988 after security requirements were defined that experts started creating more reliable and secure digital signatures.
What are Electronic and Digital Signatures?
An electronic signature is a sign, symbol, sound or marking that shows substantiated intent to sign a document. It could be in the form of verbal consent, a tick in a box, or even electronically signed accord.
A digital signature, on the other hand, is a form of electronic signature that makes use of an algorithm that acts as a fingerprint so that once you use it, the document you sign with be protected from tampering after the signing. This makes it more secure than the other regular forms of electronic signature.
About Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures are broadly categorized as follows:
The scanned signature where one writes the signature by hand then scans it into their electronic device. This is most basic but least secure because your signature can be easily copied and your document manipulated by anyone else with access to both.
Click to sign method is where you are asked to tick into a box on scanned images, e-squiggles or typed names. With this, there is no way of authenticating if the person who ticked is the one that gave authority in the document. They nonetheless are used in conjunction with other electronic signatures.
The basic e-signature is where the person signing the document writes a signature by hand and then the document is secured using a cryptographic digital mark. The securing of the document and signature is done in a single server ran by the company doing the encrypting for you. So each time you sign a document using the e-signature it cryptographically binds onto the document thus protecting it from being edited by a third party.
Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) and Advanced Electronic signatures (AES) are even more secure than the one server e-signatures. With this, the signer gets a private validation key that ensures no negation. It gives authentication and assurance that the signer is the one who solely signed the documents. Even the service provider cannot use the signature on behalf of the signer.
About Digital Signatures
Digital signatures are electronic signatures that use an explicit protocol referred to as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). PKI demands that for every signature, an algorithm is also developed and used to create two keys; a private key and a public key. The private key is only given to the signer while the public key is open to anyone who wants to authenticate the legitimacy of the signature.
The PKI protocol is not enough to secure your signature and documents and that is why Certificate Authority (CA) exists. These are third party firms that are widely known and acknowledged as the custodians of the private and public keys. When using a digital signature, you want to be certain that your documents, signature and private key are safe and secure and that no one else can have access to them.
So how does it all work? When you sign a document electronically, the signature is created using your private key which only you have access to. The mathematical algorithm used when creating the key acts as a cipher and processes data that ties the signed document. The result is what gives you the digital signature.
So suppose you send that document to someone else, the receiver of that document will also receive a public key which they will use to decrypt the signature so as to authenticate the legitimacy of your document and signature. If the public key fails to decrypt the signature, then it would mean that either you were not the one that signed it, or it was manipulated after you had signed.
The CA is not only the custodian of the public and private keys but also charged with giving companies digital certificates which contain the public keys for digital signatures. These are organizations such as swiftsignature who provide electronic signing services.
Differences between Electronic and Digital Signatures
Now that you understand how each of the above works, let’s take a look at the key differences between them.
E-signatures do not use the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) protocol. The only party involved in the creation of E-signature is the companies offering the electronic signing service. It is in the best interest of every company offering this service to ensure that their systems are secure and reliable.
Electronic signatures, make use of a single held signing key which is held by the signer while the digital signature makes use of a private key under the signer’s control and a public key used to authenticate the legitimacy of the document and signature.
The PKI technology is internationally accepted and therefore the digital signatures can be used over a wide range of jurisdictions across the globe. E-signatures on the other hand although legally binding don’t have as much reach. It’s important to note that electronic signatures come in different forms and we have more and more reliable and widely accepted modes of electronic signing today.
An electronic signature needs to prove who signed it, what they signed and the intent and approval behind the signing. It’s harder for the receiver of the document to prove all this. Digital signatures, on the other hand, are able to protect sensitive information, identify any and all attempts to make alterations to your document and signature, and they make it easy for the receiver of the document to ascertain the legitimacy of the document and signature with the use of a public key.
How To Find The Best Electronic Signature Service
There are many providers in the market offering this service but the broad idea behind how they work is the same across the board. Once a document is created be it in Word, PDF or image file, it is then uploaded to the providers’ online service where they are then signed. One can sign using typical cursive typefaces, doodle using a mouse or a stylus pen using a tablet. Once the system encrypts the information, the file is sent back to you and you can now share it with intended recipients.
With so many providers in the market, how would you know which one to go for?
You need a provider who has secure systems because you need to be certain that your information is not shared with anyone else. You also need reliability and efficiency. Since the services are available online, you want to avoid a lot of black tapes and follow simple and clear steps that will save you time.
At Swift Signature, we provide the best platform that allows you to sign your documents online. You can access our online services from your phone, tablet, desktop or laptop. Your signed documents will be legally binding, secure than a handwritten signature and we ensure that the process is prompt and easy.
With Swift electronic signature WordPress plugin, you can set up any document frequently used as a web-based template making your work more efficient.
We believe that it’s harder for human beings to conform than it is for software, that is why our software adapts to you and your business needs. We also tailor labels and offer clear direction on the anticipated next step of a sale before driving systems into autopilot.
To enhance security, we provide comprehensive browser fingerprinting, time-date imprinting, and GPS location tracking as enforcements apparatuses that ensure there is no confusion and disagreements along the way.
Last but not least, we have made our service simple but powerful. We understand that because e-signature is still pretty new in the market, simplicity is key if we are to encourage more users to engage. So we offer features like multi-party signatures, virtual envelopes for grouping compound documents together, export, reports and much more.