Posted On 01 Aug 2020
In the modern business world, the electronic signature (e-signature) is becoming ever more prevalent. An e-signature can be very simply provided by a user either typing in their name or providing a digital picture of their handwritten signature. With the correct implementation, e-signatures can be just as valid and legally enforceable as a standard pen-and-ink signature.
It should be remembered that “digital signature” and “electronic signature” are not the same thing: the electronic signature is what is provided by the signatory, and the digital signature is the technology that ensures the integrity and safety of the electronic signature.
While some people feel uncomfortable with electronic signatures, believing that they are less secure or enforceable than traditional signatures, this is not the case. In fact, e-signatures are more secure; if you receive a document from a client with their signature on it, how do you know it hasn’t been forged? However, with an e-signature, password protections, etc guarantee that it has come from a genuine user. Protection can be as simple as ensuring the e-signature has come from the correct email address, or it can be stepped up by using two-factor authentication or the ultimate Public Key Infrastructure technology.
With Public Key Infrastructure, there are two keys used in the security of the e-signature. A public key is used by everyone who needs access to a document in question, but the private key is only known to individual users; it is impossible for anyone who does not have access to the relevant private key to sign a document. Not only does this mean that the recipient can rest assured that the signature on the document is genuine, but the signatory cannot deny that they signed a document. An electronic paper trail will be generated with every signature, showing where, when, and how a document was signed and who the signatory was.
An additional advantage of electronically signed documents is that, with the requisite levels of security, they remain valid even when copies are made of them; with traditional paper documents, legally generally the original is required for validity and if this is lost or damaged many problems can arise. Every digital copy of an electronically signed document contains all of the same information and proofs as the original, and so if the first copy to be signed is lost in a software crash or hardware malfunction, copies can still be regarded as legally valid.