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Today, most organizations, if not all, have incorporated technology into most of their processes and systems. Besides facilitating a faster and easier way of life, technological advancements allow businesses to remain relevant in the modern world. Digital and electronic signatures are one of the many advancements companies have adopted.
However, most people don’t understand the main differences between an eSignature and a digital signature and use the terms interchangeably. Knowing that the concepts are different, with the main difference boiling down to purpose or use, is imperative. A digital signature is certified by trust service providers or certificate authorities and is primarily used to protect documents. On the other hand, an electronic signature is often associated with a contract that the signer agrees to.
The following are definitions of the terms electronic signature and digital signature, including their main features that bring the differences.
What is an electronic signature?
An electronic signature is any electronic symbol, image, or process associated with a contract or record that an interested party intends to sign. The intention to sign a document or agreement is the main feature of an electronic signature. An electronic signature can also be a simple mouse click, oral, or any electronic authorization; this is another aspect that distinguishes an electronic signature from a digital signature.
An electronic signature’s main feature or characteristic is that it reveals the interested party’s interest in signing the document. It usually adheres to or complies with contracts and other agreements between parties. As stated earlier, there are different types of electronic signatures. They are legally enforceable or binding once the parties demonstrate their commitment and willingness to enter into a contract.
Another aspect of an electronic signature is that it checks or verifies the authenticity of documents. The parties involved should be identified once it has been signed. However, there is no way to verify an electronic signature since there is no digital certificate.
An electronic signature can also be used to execute an agreement in a contract where two people agree to perform certain obligations. The agreement legally binds both parties. Most contracts use electronic signatures since they are easy to use.
What is a digital signature?
Digital signatures use electronic signatures and public key infrastructure to secure a document. It is a unique characteristic in digital form – something like a fingerprint stamped or embedded in a document. A digital certificate is required for the signer to be associated with the record. Unlike an electronic signature which doesn’t require trusted certificate authorities, a digital signature requires a trustworthy certificate authority for verification. The certification authority issues a digital signature; its primary role is to ensure documents’ security.
The security of a digital signature is exceptional since it has encryption standards and more security features. Fraudsters find it nearly impossible to forge documents and submit them online using a digital signature. Also, a digital signature can be verified and is protected with a tamper-evident seal. Therefore, it indicates possible changes to the document’s contents after signing. Additionally, only authorized persons have access to view and make changes. With the provision of pins, codes, and passwords, signers can verify and authenticate their signatures.
Applying a digital signature to a document means the certificate is bound to the signed data in a single, unique fingerprint. These components make a digital signature unique and more practical since you can authenticate its origin. Because of this cryptographic operation, a digital signature can be used to:
- Confirm the signer’s identity.
- Prove the source and authenticity of the document.
- Ensure there are no changes or alterations in the records after signing.
While electronic and digital signatures are legally binding, most companies prefer the latter since they are more secure than the former. You improve productivity and reduce paperwork by implementing digital signatures for your company. More companies and offices are using digital signatures to increase efficiency and security in the workplace. Companies that use digital signatures also include reduced costs, quick turnaround, process efficiency, and better customer experience.
Digital signatures and electronic signatures have significant differences. Understanding their main feature will help you establish the differences between the two concepts. Knowing the types of signatures your organization needs to collect is essential as it impacts the technology and processes you implement.igital