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How Electronic Signatures Can Be Securely Used In Your Organization?

Electronic Signatures and different types of esignatures

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An electronic signature, often known as an e-signature, is a legally recognized method of obtaining consent or approval on electronic documents or forms. It is a collection of many ways for affixing identity to documents. They are created using an electronic technique and can be as simple as a photograph of a handwritten signature or as complex as a PKI-generated digital signature certificate. E-signature has grown exponentially due to the increased need for paperless work; documents must be signed, and e-signing is a convenient, efficient, and modern alternative.

In other definitions, an E-signature can be stated as “An electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

Benefits of Electronic Signatures

  • The signatory is clearly identified.
  • Ensures the document’s integrity by ensuring that it has not been updated or amended after signing.
  • It ensures non-repudiation since it is credible proof of the signatory’s consent, as they cannot deny signing the document.

Types of Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures are mainly divided into three categories. The distinction is based on electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services regulation (eIDAS). Throughout the EU, this law creates the legal framework for electronic identity, signatures, seals, and documents.

  1. Simple or Basic electronic signature (SES)

    The most basic and popular form of e-sign, which is used widely. This signature is not cryptographically encrypted. The intention of the signer to sign the document is used as confirmation of its validity. This signature form is simple, but it’s also simple to forge because there are minimal security mechanisms to verify the signer’s legitimacy.

    Use cases include Biometric Signature, Manual Signature, One-time passwords (OTP), etc.

  2. Advanced electronic signature (AES)

    This signature is substantially more secure than ordinary electronic signatures because the signer’s validity must first be verified before the signature can occur. To assure authenticity, digital certificates and public keys are created, managed, distributed, used, stored, and revoked using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). A Certificate Authority (CA) normally certifies these signatures.

    Use cases include Biometric/Manual Signatures, Banking Card, Email OTPs, etc.

  3. Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)

    This is the highest level of E-sign available for use. Qualified electronic signatures include those for advanced electronic signatures and digital signatures and additional requirements for the equipment used to produce the signature. Before use during the signing process, the EU assured Certification Authority must have obtained the device. Both the digital security protocol and the devices that allow for signature creation are included in QES. This increases the legitimacy and integrity of signed documents.

    Use cases include Smartcards, Electronic Identity Cards, Payment Cards, etc.

Parameter for selecting the right kind of E-signature

  • Integrity
  • Identity
  • Authentication
  • Authenticity

    Differentiation based on the level of assurance:

     SESAESQES
    IntegrityAfter signing, the content cannot be modified.After signing, the content cannot be changed.After signing, the content cannot be altered.
    IdentityNo identity Checking.High likelihood of identity verification of a signer.100% successful in identifying the signer; this can be done via face-to-face or other means.
    AuthenticationNot certain whether the signature can be traced back to the signer.Certain that the signature can be traced back to the signer.Certain that the signature can be traced back to the signer.
    AuthenticityIt’s unclear whether the signature was generated solely by the signatory.Assured that the signature was formed solely under the signatory’s authority. MFA is there.Confirmed that the signature was created solely under the signatory’s control. MFA is available.
    ValidityLegally indisputable.Legally indisputable.Legally indisputable.
    Hardware No requirement.A Secure Signature Creation Device (SSCD) is required.A Secure Signature Creation Device (SSCD) is required.

    Difference between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

    Although the terms electronic signature and digital signature are frequently used interchangeably, the meanings and concepts of both are different. The key difference is that the Certification authorities permit digital signatures primarily used to safeguard documents. In contrast, an electronic signature is frequently associated with a contract where the signer intends to do so.

    Digital Signature:

    • It is used for securing a document
    • Generally authorized by CA and have more security features in hand.
    • Adobe and Microsoft are two common types of digital signatures.

    Electronic Signature:

    • Primarily used for verifying a document
    • Not authorized usually and has less security than DS.
    • Verbal, electronic ticks, and scanned signatures are the most common types of electronic signatures.

    Conclusion

    E-signatures, also known as electronic signatures, is a collection of diverse methods for attaching identity to documents. Electronic signatures on electronic records have been introduced and adopted by many businesses, customers, and even some government processes. There are three types of e-signs: SES, AES, and QES, with SES being the basic and common form and QES being the most secured one. E-signature is based on Identity, Integrity, and Authentication. Talking about digital signatures vs. e-signatures, a digital signature focuses on the document’s security, whereas an e-signature majorly focuses on verification.

    About the Author

    Nishiket Kumar is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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