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Digital Signature Certificate: What is and Why It’s Important

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Digitization is the process of converting physical documents into digital forms. As more and more digital documents are created, stored, and transmitted electronically as part of business transactions, it becomes increasingly important to secure them through digital signature certificates. 

However, many business owners don’t have a clear understanding of how digital signature works and why it’s important. This article discusses the important role digital signature certificates play in ensuring that the information contained in the documents is not altered.

What is a Digital Signature Certificate?

A digital signature certificate is issued by a certifying authority to validate and certify the integrity of electronic messages, files, contacts, documents, and other digital content. It’s an extra layer of security to protect sensitive information from being tampered with. It also verifies the identity of the sender.

When you create a digital signature, you need a digital signature certificate that will prove your identity. Think of it as the digital form of notarization by a notary public. It’s essentially a way to ensure that the document was created by the person who claims to have created it.

The digital signature certificate contains the sender’s name, country, pin code, e-mail address, issue date, and the certifying authority. Essentially, it stores encrypted digital signatures that can be verified by authorized recipients.

In Malaysia, digital signatures are valid and legally binding when used in HR documents, end-user agreements, and commercial real estate documents.

Why it is necessary to obtain?

Having a digital signature necessitates getting a certificate that will prove the authenticity of a document. If your company deals with a lot of contract signing and requires documents to be sent back and forth, you can benefit from obtaining digital signature certificates.

Authentication 

A digital signature is a cryptographic technique used to ensure the authenticity of the document and the identity of the sender. When you create a digital signature, you use a private key to encrypt the data. The authentication process requires the use of the signer’s public key. It’s the only way for the recipient to decrypt the content of the document and authenticate the sender.

If the intended recipient is unable to open the document, then it means that the document has been tampered with in some way. This level of security protects your document from tampering, interference, and forgery.

Integrity of data

By digitally signing your documents, you are protecting the integrity of your data. The mathematical algorithm that locks down that data ensures that only authorized recipients can access it. 

Business transactions rely on trust to ensure successful outcomes. Data integrity is critical to maintaining this trust, as it ensures that the data being sent and received is accurate and unchanged from its original form. Through a digital signature certificate, the recipient can cross-check and verify if the data is legitimate.

Reduce time and cost

With digital signatures, you can digitally sign your documents and have them sent electronically to recipients. Since there’s no need to print and scan physical documents, it saves on paper, ink, and postage. It also reduces the time and cost required to create and verify documents. 

It makes work processes more efficient as the verification process is quick. No one other than the person who signed the document can make changes to it without being detected. This is important because it helps protect your data from being accessed by unauthorized people. 

Documents’ authenticity

When you sign your PDF documents with a digital signature, you are making your document tamper-proof. The recipient of the document can then be sure that the content has not been modified after it was signed. This is an important assurance for online business transactions. 

Signing PDF documents with enhanced e-signatures guarantees that the documents are not tampered with in transit. This protects businesses from fraudulent activities and ensures that all data being exchanged between parties is reliable and trustworthy.

Types of Certificates

Sign

Class 1 certificate is the most basic level of security ascribed to your digital signature. It will verify your signature based on the name and e-mail address from the database of the certification authority. It’s essentially just cross-checking your signature to confirm that you are who you say you are. This type of signature can be used in situations where the risk of data compromise is low, such as in internal company networks.

Encrypt

Class 2 certificate provides a moderate form of security as your signature and identity are checked against a pre-verified database of the licensed CA. Documents are encrypted to ensure that data is not compromised upon transmission to the intended recipient. This type of certificate is typically used in documents pertaining to income tax returns, company registration, and audit reports, among others.

Sign & Encrypt

Class 3 digital signature certificate provides the highest level of security as the creation, encryption, and decryption system is put in place to prevent forgery and tampering at every step. This type of certificate is used in transactions with confidential and sensitive information, which can be risky when intercepted and used to commit fraud.

Who Can Issue the Digital Signature Certificate?

A licensed Certificate Authority (CA) issues digital signature certificates, signs the certificates to verify their validity, and marks them with its seal. The CA also keeps track of when certificates have expired, so that they can revoke or replace them as needed.

Each country has its own licensed Certification Authorities. For instance, in Malaysia, there’s a list of licensed and recognized certification authorities you can refer to if you want to secure a digital signature certificate. Currently, there are no foreign CA recognized by the Malaysian government. 

If you want to sign a PDF or Word document with a digital signature, you must contact a CA from the list and request a certificate. The CA then creates a digital certificate that includes pertinent information that can be used to verify and authenticate your signature as well as the content of your documents.

Validity of the Certificate

The validity of a digital signature certificate is typically limited to a certain period, anywhere from one to three years. If you need to continue to rely on the certificate after its expiration date, you will need to renew it.

To request a certificate, you must submit a request to the CA and pay the fee. The CA then issues the certificate. Alternatively, you can sign up with SigningCloud to help you with creating documents with digital signature certificates.

Key Takeaways/Conclusion

The rise of digital signatures is a trend that’s reshaping the way we do business. By digitizing documents, you can make it easier for others to access and use them. But with the added security provided by digital signature certificates, you are ensuring that the integrity of the document is not compromised.

With a digital signature certificate, you have a security mechanism in place to verify the authenticity of data and the identity of signers. This makes it easier to do business online and increases the security and transparency of transactions.

SC (CTA) How Digital Technology Can Future-Proof Your Business - March 2022 (2)

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