A digital signature provides a unique identity to an online content creator making it harder for other people to utilise their name or brand without their authorisation. This provides a content consumer with a visible sign to verify that we are looking at an authentic creator. Digital signatures are not only secure, but also legally binding.
This makes a digital signature essential in the business environment. Before this technology, the only way to ensure the authenticity of a document was to get a physical copy from the person or organisation. We will take you through what is a digital signature, and the various ways through which you can guarantee the authenticity of the documents you send.
What is a digital signature?
A digital signature is a unique code generated by an algorithm and authenticated by an encryption key. This code is attached to an online document for verification of the sender’s identity.
Just as a handwritten signature on a paper (or a seal on an envelope), digital signatures perform the same function as a fingerprint did in the olden days. Digital signatures assure the viewer that the content was created by a particular content creator rather than an imposter.
These signatures also provide encryption that makes it close to impossible to alter or edit the content without an encryption key held by the owner of that signature. This ensures that any content was created and edited by the authentic source.
How secure is a digital signature?
A digital signature provides a three-dimensional thumbprint on your document. It provides the receiver of that document with all sorts of useful information such as who signed the document, where they signed it as well as how they signed it. This creates a robust data trail for the sender to show the legitimacy of the document.
As per a law signed by US Congress in 2000, digital signatures are legally binding. This law defines a digital signature as “an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to, or associated with, a contract or other record and adopted by the person with intent to sign”.
Digital signatures collect a lot of data relative to the signing of a particular document. First, they might ask for personal information like last digits of your social security number at the time of creation. Then, while using the signature, they also ask for your encryption key as login (or a PIN code in certain cases). All of these measures guarantee the authenticity of the origin of the data.
How to create a digital signature?
Digital signatures can be created through many well-known document handling software. Adobe Acrobat reader is not only the most widely used but also is one of the first ones to provide this service.
A detailed guide on how to create a digital signature is available on the Adobe website.
Simply put, you can create a digital signature by:
- Opening the document you want to sign and selecting the signature box
- Selecting the name of the digital signature provider
- Typing the name you want to sign with and selecting a desirable font for that name
- Clicking ‘Apply’ to complete the process
You can also draw your signature if you want to personalise it to look it is your actual signature. To do that, select the ‘draw your signature’ option. However, we would recommend using a touch-based input device for a hassle-free experience.
Similarly, if you want to use an image or logo as your digital signature, you have the option of doing that. Just go to image menu in the signature box and upload the image you want to use as your signature and click Apply.
Now that you know how you can go about creating a digital signature let’s go ahead and take a look at the various programs you can use to create one.
Adobe provides a lot of security features. First and foremost, they verify the actual Identity of the person before they issue a digital ID. They also automatically encrypt both the document and the signature together, making it safer and more convenient than to have the user encrypt the document themselves.
Adobe also makes it easier to revalidate a document. However, there are downfalls to using Adobe sign, the most important of which is its pricing. Currently, it is billed at $14.99 per month when billed for each individual user ($9.99 a month if you pay annually). For a team, they provide their services for $24.99 per user per month.
With a claimed user base of 200 million, DocuSign is certainly a top-rated digital signature service. Their software is straightforward and easy. It features integration with popular apps from the likes of Google, Apple, Windows, etc.
Creating a digital signature in DocuSign is also very easy. Their website has all the information you need to set up your very own digital signature.
DocuSign emphasises on data protection by providing powerful encryption as well as other proven practices in data security. Their signatures are legally binding across many international jurisdictions including EU law.
As for the pricing, DocuSign is only slightly better than Adobe. A DocuSign subscription costs $10 per month for an individual and $25 per user per month for an organisation.
For more budget conscious users, Secured Signing is a very attractive alternative. It starts with a $20 per month for its ‘team’ edition. However, the cost per person declines as you add more people to your team, making it a perfect service for a small business.
The lower price does not mean that Secured Signing is lacking in features. It is also cloud-based so it can be used anywhere, and it has video confirmation for the signing process. You can send a reminder to the people who are supposed to sign the document, and have access to pretty much all the other security features taken for granted from a service like this.
The digital signature is a very useful tool for people who handle sensitive documents in their workflow. This includes people handling financial documents or documents with corporate secrets etc. In the digital age, it is not practical to think that we can keep such document on paper under lock and key, so the digital signature is your best bet for proving the authenticity of data sent over the web.