How Does A Digital Signature Process Work?

You get the general picture of how your business can benefit from implementing a digital signature system, but you can’t wrap your head around how the process actually works. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. 

Digital signatures are becoming an increasingly important part of business transactions. However, many business owners struggle to understand the digital signature process because it is often shrouded in jargon and technical terms. 

This article discusses how the digital signatures process works to help business owners understand the importance of using them for secure transactions.

What’s the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?

Although the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Before discussing the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature, let’s look at their definitions.

What is an electronic signature?

In Malaysia, the electronic signature is defined as: “any letter, character, number, sound, or any other symbol or any combination thereof created in an electronic form adopted by a person as a signature,” according to Section 5 of the Electronic Commerce Act 2006.

What is a digital signature?

A digital signature is an enhanced electronic signature, according to Section 62(2) of the Digital Signature Act 1997. A document signed with a digital signature is legally binding.

The digital signature is a security feature that allows you to verify a sender’s identity and ensure that messages have not been tampered with during transit. 

When you sign a document using a digital signature, you create an encrypted copy of the document. Anyone who wants to verify your signature must first decrypt the document and then compare it to the signature field in your digital certificate.

Electronic Signature vs Digital Signature

Essentially, the electronic signature is an umbrella term for all e-signatures affixed to a digital document or record. The digital signature is a type of electronic signature with enhanced security features to ensure that your document cannot be altered, modified, or replicated. 

You can use the term “electronic signature” to refer to the types of signatures applied electronically to digital documents. On the other hand, the digital signature is a more secure way to digitally seal your documents to prevent them from alterations should they fall into the wrong hands. 

The Five Steps: How The Digital Signature Process Works

The digital signature is a process where an electronic document can be authenticated by proving the document’s authenticity and authorship. A digital signature is created by appending a cryptographic signature to the document, enabling the recipient to verify that the document was not altered in transit or after it was signed. 

Step #1: Create the document

When you’re ready to sign a document using your digital signature, you’ll need to create a PDF (Portable Document Format) version of the document. PDF is the best format for adding a digital signature because it’s supported by most browsers and platforms. 

PDF also preserves the layout and formatting of a document, and it can be easily encrypted to protect and verify the accuracy of the signature.

  1. Open the PDF document you want to sign in Adobe Acrobat Reader. 
  2. On the Tools pane, click “Fill & Sign.” 
  3. Click on “Sign” and choose “Add Signature.”
  4. You have three options to create your e-signature: Type, Draw, or Image. Select one and click the “Apply” button.
  5. Resize your e-signature and drag it to the appropriate area. 
  6. Save the PDF document. 

Step #2: Upload the document

Uploading a document with digital signatures is a simple process done through a third-party service. One option that allows on-the-go access and digital signing is a cloud-based signing platform such as SigningCloud

The advantage of using a signing platform is that it makes the digital signing process quick, easy, and secure. If your company deals with sensitive documents or legal paperwork, you can benefit from this digital signing service.

Step #3: Mail a signature request

After the digital signature document is uploaded to the cloud, where it can be accessed by both the sender and receiver, you must send a signature request to the authorized signatories. Each signatory will receive the digital document, and they will be asked to sign it through a selected method supported by a signing platform. 

Step #4: Wait for signatures

When you send a signature request, the recipients will be notified that they must sign the document. They can do so using secure methods validated through proof of identity. This can be done even with multiple recipients from various geographic locations. 

Step #5: Finalize the document

After the signatories have all signed, the document with all the signatures will be generated. The paper will contain all the necessary verification evidence that has been collected during the signing process. 

Part of the process is to verify if the signatures are from the authorized people and if the document has not been altered during the transmission. The final document is now verified and legally binding, and it can be submitted or sent to the intended recipients through email or cloud.

How Sending A Digital Signature Works

The main requirement for creating digital signatures is the Private Key Infrastructure (PKI). There’s a private key and a public key for every digital signature transaction. The private key is used by the signer to electronically sign the documents.

A public key is then created, which is sent to the document recipient. The receiver uses the public key to decrypt the digital certificate to validate the sender’s identity and signature.

PKI enforces a certificate of authority (CA), a digital certificate that assures the validity of a document. The CA is generated by a trusted third party. When a CA is applied to a document, an electronic signature is created that can be verified using public-key cryptography. 

What Does a Digital Signature Look Like?

When you affix your e-signature to a digital document, it becomes a digital version of your signature that you draw on to a tablet or type on a keyboard. It can also be a scanned image.

Digital signature involves using cryptographic algorithms that serve as mathematical proof that you have created or signed a document. It allows for the verification and authentication of the document to ensure that it has not been altered in transit.

Key Takeaways/Conclusion

Electronic and digital signatures are becoming increasingly popular because they provide a secure way to authenticate documents. They also eliminate the need for paper signatures and can speed up document processing. 

While e-signature and digital signature are often thought of as one and the same, they are actually different. Both can be used to create contracts, agreements and other legal documents. Still, a digital signature is an enhanced form of electronic signature with robust safety features to protect documents from alterations and forgeries.

If you want to use digital signatures in your business, make sure you have the right tools and procedures to keep information safe and prevent your documents from being compromised.

You can learn more about digital signatures by downloading the e-book.

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