Yes. E-signatures are safe for use and can be relied on for any business transaction. However, one of the most common questions among small business entrepreneurs, financiers and mortgage companies is ”can e-signatures be copied or forged, and how secure are they?”
Well, while it is easy to tamper with wet signatures (those affixed in a hard copy), e-signatures are built with endless authentication layers. Their security also presents acceptable substantiation of transactions. Here, we tell you why electronic signatures are safe, how they work, and the features that guarantee safety.
What are Electronic Signatures?
An eSign is a term that denotes any signature presented in the electronic form. Electronic signatures rely on cryptographic transformation to give the recipient a chance to verify the integrity of the data provided. It is a legal means of getting consent on electronic forms or documents. Electronic signatures form fingerprints virtually, unique to an entity.
They are used to protect identity and data in electronic documents. Many countries recognize e-signatures in their jurisdictions, meaning they are legal. Given that they are presented with authentication through electronic certificates and biometric methods, their security is assured. Electronic signatures are ideal for all business types and sizes. Today, they are largely being used on all documents, including the most complex transactions. Here are some of their benefits:
- Legally binding: They are enforceable and legal in most global countries
- Extremely Efficient: They speed up processes and transactions
- Cost-effective: They reduce costs used on ink, paper, and postage
Electronic signatures have three top features that promise safety upon use. They are as follows:
1. Certificate of Completion
This is electronic data detailing information related to the digital identity of the signer. Most e-signature services provide a certificate of completion, proof that a form has been signed. It should include the email address of each signer, name, IP address, timestamp, and date. There should also be a disclosure showcasing the consumer’s readiness to use e-signature. To help verify the institution’s veracity, the certificate can be downloaded as a PDF document.
2. Tamper-evident Seal
After the completion of the signing of documents, every one of them is digitally sealed. This is done using industry technology referred to as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The seal is an indication of the validity of an e-signature. It shows that the form or document has not been tampered with post-signing.
3. Electronic Record
Electronic records are proof that the e-sign is legally binding, an equivalent of the hand-written, traditional signatures. They give proof of a transaction, giving attention to the history of the events undertaken upon the signing of the document, including the sending, viewing and opening. When allowed, it can also indicate the geolocation of where the signing took place.
Why PKI is Crucial in Digital Signatures?
PKI in electronic signatures strengthens the data. It also lowers security threats linked to the transmission of public keys. It does so by verifying that the provided key is a genuine property of the sender. The protection of the private key determines the security of the signature.
Without the PKI, it is not possible to authenticate identity. It also becomes impossible to annul a compromised key, something that could pave way for malicious players who may impersonate the sender. By using electronic signatures from a trusted provider, you can protect your transactions and documents.
Evaluating Electronic Signature Services
In any organisation, IT departments conduct an extensive due diligence on their software to keep security scars at bay. They are fully involved in protecting the software and cloud services against malware, phishing, data loss and many other threats. It is the same for e-signatures. There are particular security approaches that must be observed in documentation and the appending of signatures to ensure authenticity. Here is what the e-signature must contain
1. Audit Trail
Documents signed electronically; ones that can be independently archived without the interference of the vendor give an extra touch of security. If you choose to lose or retain your account with the e-sign provider, your documents remain unaffected because the other party does not have to verify the document online. Embedding the audit trail and the electronic signature in the document is the only way to get vendor independence.
2. Cloud Security
Look carefully into the security protocols laid out by the vendor to ensure that data breaches are avoided. Find out about their certifications, consistency in their security audits and the track record. The vendor must use strong data encryption during transit and the data must be stored in an encrypted database volume.
3. Signature Security
It is advisable to choose an e-signature service that secures your document with a digital signature. The signatures must be applied at the following levels:
- Signature level: This must be applied to prevent interference
- Document level: This is to prevent meddling with the contents of the document
The signing intent of the form and the agreed upon details are tied together by a digital signature. It also prevents tampering, meaning that unauthorised changes cannot take effect.
4. User Authentication
When it comes to the security of the e-signatures, the law does not quite define what they should contain. However, legally, its definition is that it must detail the signer and verify their identity. It means that before you append your signature, be sure to authenticate the user.
How is the Identity of the Signer Verified?
There are many ways the identity of the party is authenticated before the document is accessed. These include the following:
- Access Code: This is a passcode given only once by the sender. It is what the signer is expected to enter to access the document.
- Email Address: The signer enters an email which has to match the one given during the invitation.
- ID Verification: The ID issued by the government must be provided
- Phone Call: A particular phone number is provided, which the signer has to call to access the code and name.
- SMS: The signer is required to enter the given SMS passcode
Types of Security Measures
The guarantee of security depends on the provider you choose. It is vital that you settle for a provider who can assure you of high-tech security on all levels and every area of business transaction. The following are some of the measures to expect.
- Platform security: This type protects your data within the system
- Physical security: Protects the system in which the information is stored
- Security certifications: Ensures that the customers, partners, and employees abide by the privacy settings of the data
While electronic signatures are a modern method, they have rapidly expanded and are more than ever being used in multiple companies. Although e-signatures are secure, be sure to rely on a provider who observes internet security practices.
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Last Updated on June 13, 2021.