An Introduction to Electronic Signatures

In regular conversation, a lot of us tend to use the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” interchangeably. They might seem similar, but they definitely aren’t the same. Here are a few quick pointers for you to be able to distinguish between the two.

Electronic Signatures:

An electronic signature, colloquially referred to as an e-signature, denotes any electronic means that indicates that a person has accepted the contents of any electronic message, or is making a confirmation that he/she is the person who has written that message. It is an electronic equivalent of any regular seal or signature.

Many countries, like the United States, the European Union, India, Brazil and Australia, recognize electronic signatures within their jurisdiction as well as traditional signatures, making these e-signed documents completely legal.

Electronic signatures are easier to use. Customers can sign documents online with a single mouse-click, or can also use their fingers on any touch-screen gadget to trace their handwritten signatures onto a document, and this is what makes them popular!

The regulations concerning electronic signatures vary across vendors, which is why to guarantee the safety of documents, customers have to stay in touch with their vendors and periodically check if their electronic signatures are the same. Sometimes, this procedure might have to be repeated if vendors are changed.

Electronic signatures use a type of cryptographic transformation of the data to allow the recipient to prove the origin and integrity of what it holds. Security is also taken care of because these electronic signatures also have user authentication via digital certificates, smart cards or even biometric methods.

E-Signatures are good enough for almost everything, because most contracts (except those that require notarization) can be safely dealt with via electronic means. They are beginning to find a home on all types of business documents, including service contracts and other complex transaction documents. Nowadays, the availability of a variety of cloud-based services have made the process a lot more simple and accurate with additional features.

Digital Signatures:

Digital signatures, on the other hand, fall under the broader category of electronic signatures, but work with a different security system. When a document is signed with a digital signature, it deploys an algorithm called asymmetric cryptography, which essentially links a fingerprint of the document to the identity of the person signing the document. This algorithm selects a private key and a public key (the encryption usually is a series of numbers), produces a signature and then verifies its authenticity.

Unlike what people might imagine this to be, a digital signature alone doesn’t display an image of the signature as proof of consent to a document. In fact, it isn’t part of the document at all! The digital signature is often linked to a document by a database application that a company typically creates to store it.

A digital signature gets permanently embedded, and prevents any outsider from tampering with it. This is one of the primary security benefits associated with digital signatures.
Pros and cons exist for both, electronic and digital signatures. The latter works better in a model when more than one signature is required. However, electronic signatures produce what digital signature technology stops short of. It displays the image of the handwritten signature or the mark of consent, like you would see in the non-electronic medium. What’s better is that it is permanently attached to any document, because the idea behind the method is to duplicate what you’d follow in any traditional business process, and replicate real-world procedures as closely as possible.

We hope this helps you understand the nuances of electronic signatures and you are better informed, and in a  position to evaluate where to use electronic signatures. Excited to try it out? Download SignEasy and give it a shot!

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