The technological shift in recent years has changed the way the modern world conducts business. From marketing to supply chain management innovation has fundamentally changed cycles. All through the shift from paper to computer one thing has held its significance: the signature. It may be typed on a cell phone or be handwritten or by taking a picture of the signature, is still the indication of an individual's bond. Electronic signatures are heavily being used but do we know everything about them? How would you realize when it's alright to utilize, or if it’s legally binding? Are electronic signatures solution providers properly using our information?
The answer to all these questions is yes. electronic signatures are safe and in this blog, we will find out how. Let’s start with understanding what an electronic signature is?
What is an Electronic signature?
An electronic signature is a way to get or receive approval or consent on electronic forms or documents legally. It can replace the traditional signature in any process virtually. It consists of few technical data that ensures the sender of the document virtually and ensures that the document wasn’t tampered with.
How do electronic signatures work?
The signing process of electronic documents depends on the e-signature provider that you are using, however, the underlying workflows of more robust solutions are almost the same. Here is the process that most of the free Document esign online services follow:
Drag and upload the document that needs to be signed like a PDF or a word document.
Add the sections that require to be filled, like the initials, signatures, phone numbers.
Get the signers authentication and send the files to your designated recipient’s email.
Get notified about the email notification for previewing and signing the document.
Verify the signer’s identity before signing.
Read and agree to the terms of the disclosure agreement.
Select a signature style that is to be used.
Sign the document online.
All the recipients are notified after they have signed the document, and this is stored electronically in the cloud from where it can be easily retrieved. The built-in safety features provide enough security to the e-signature service providers and the process to follow.
Security of electronic signatures
The signing of documents usually takes place in a browser, to ensure scalability and security. It is important to ensure that the service providers use an encrypted browser connection (HTTPS) so that no one is listening or spying on your connection.
Digital signature security measures
While looking for an online digital signature service provider, you need to ensure that the developer of the service takes care of the good practices in internet security. Let’s have a look at a few of the security measures of digital signatures.
Secure socket layer
Secure Socket Layer or SSL is an an encryption-based cybersecurity protocol that’s used for ensuring authentication, privacy, and data integrity for Internet communications. Currently, digital signature service providers use TLS as a modern way to encrypt documents. An SSL certificate is implemented by websites to use SSL encryption.
Document esign creates hash codes of the signed document and the audit trail for the document. Every eSigned document has a unique hash code that helps the users to keep their documents encrypted. The hash codes also ensure the integrity of the e-signed document as it is impossible to change the document without changing the hash code.
Digital data trail (audit trail)
The audit trail is used to track and audit the signatures comprehensively and clearly for each document to trace the trails. Audit trails reflect the IP addresses of the users, the activity logged, and the timestamps. Perhaps there is additionally a need to screen the advancement of the cycle. Any organization needs to arrange for a technique that tracks and reviews the activity of the document.
Electronic document signing and electronic contracts are password protected adding up another layer of security. The protracted files can only be opened by the users that have been given access to or the users who have the password to the document.
A document after being completed and signed is stored on the cloud securely from where only users that have access will have the permissions to open it. Users can store their data and can retrieve them anytime they want to. These servers that store data in them are mostly GDPR compliant and ISO 27001 certified.
Every esignature document after the process of completion is sealed with the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), an industry-standard technology. The seal is used to indicate that the esignature is valid and also that the document has not been altered after the date of signing.
Certificates that include More detailed information and specific details about each signer on the document, like consumer disclosure, the signature image, signer's IP address, key event timestamps, and other identifying information.
The term digital signature and digital certificate have been used interchangeably in the past, however, there is a massive comparison between digital certificates vs digital signatures. Digital certificates are another digital signature security measure that hat Compliance with applicable laws, industry standards, regulations, etc. Some of the are:
ISO 27001:2013: A class apart information security management system for global information available today
SOC 1 Type 2 and SOC 2 Type 2: A security operation center that is known to prevent, monitor, investigate, detect cyber threats around the clock. They monitor and protect the organization’s assets like brand integrity, intellectual property, etc.
(PCI DSS): Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard enhances global payment account data security and ensures safe handling of user information.
(CSA) Security trust assurance and Risk (STAR) program: encompasses three principles of rigorous auditing, transparency, and harmonization of standards.
Specialized industry regulations like 21 CFR Part 11, HIPPA, FINRA, FHA, etc play important role in Security management processes.
eSignature security checkpoints
The ESIGN Act of 2000 states that the security of eSignatures is closely monitored to the level of protection and security that is provided by the esignature. Below are a few checklists for the security of electronic signatures that you might want to check for a provider through the security test.
Does the assistance offer genuine eSignatures? You'll need to confirm that a provider offers eSignature technology that is agreeable with the eSignature guidelines in your state or area. The U.S. Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000 (ESIGN), the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and the European EC/1999/93 Directive spread out explicit compliance checkpoints for eSignatures and electronic transmissions.
Is there a way to authenticate the report should it be advisable for it to at any point be presented as proof in court? eSignatures have been lawfully reasonable in court for quite a long time (since 2000 in the US). However, if you should at any point run into a lawful test that addresses the legitimacy of a record or eSignature, having evidence of timeline (through approved and time-stamped review trails, for instance) is an approach to secure your signatures in court. You'll need to double-check that your eSignature has the security legs to hold up despite all court guidelines.
Is my record encrypted? Encryption is a safety effort used to ensure data sent between a sender and a recipient. Encryption prevents any people or malevolent outsider administrations from perusing or deciphering the data sent between the original parties. Working with an organization that utilizes SSL (or Secure Sockets Layers) encryption for your reports is significant in guaranteeing your docs are secured. Note: Encryption is significant both during the report's journey and when a document is being archived.
Additional security of electronic signatures
In addition to these above security checkpoints having "extra" security support is immense. Here are some extra security touchpoints to pay special attention to.
Secure financial processing- Document security is significant, the security of any monetary exchange is similarly as significant. You need to ensure any monetary establishment related to the provider is similarly dedicated to keeping your data free from any danger.
2-factor authentication- Extra security alternatives (like 2-factor confirmation) Many organizations offering additional security also offer strategies that you can take control over. 2-factor authentication, for example, engages a client to require a second login step. Extra steps like this add another degree of insurance to any record. These sorts of safety choices additionally make a stronger security net to ensure against any malicious intent.
Support before and after eSignature adoption- The degree of tech/client service plays a pivotal part in keeping your documents secure. Having simple and consistent access to a bunch of specialists encourages you to keep a safe encounter for yourself and your clients and additionally representatives. Specialized help is important when coordinating an eSignature API into your current site.
Are electronic signatures legally binding?
Electronic signatures are legally binding in practically all cases. The ESIGN Act of 2000 provided government acknowledgment to electronic signatures utilized in foreign or interstate. The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) is a joint demonstration by most states to receive laws perceiving electronic signatures in participating states. The greater part of the remaining states have separate laws perceiving electronic signs, and most foreign nations do too. Like different agreements, electronic signatures could be tested depending on the facts instead of as an issue of law. Hence, a document signed electronically by a person who has verified with their Bank ID is lawfully as valid as a traditional signature. E-signature can be significantly more safe and secure than a hand-written signature delivered by the post as the individual has been authenticated by a trusted third party.
Digitally signed documents are secure and scalable in their form and cannot be tampered with outside of the most extraordinary hacking efforts. Contract management systems lock a contract and bind it together into its current form. You can't find any option to edit the agreement before you sign it. The hash is going to be invalidated every time a user attempts to alter a contract.
About 60 countries have adopted esignatures and abide by their legally binding characteristics. However, the legal status of every document depends on the proof of these three elements:
1. Who has signed?
This element ensures that the signatory is verifiable. This verification can be carried out through various identity verification like electronic ID, SMS, BankID, email, etc, and tracks down everyone whosoever has handled that piece of contract. The method offers higher security to the stricter identity control there in the method. However, a lot of information is saved and logged and can be retrieved from the cloud. This information about every request made to the document or contract is 100 percent secure in the cloud.
2. What was signed?
The following part that influences the legal status of a signed document is the content of the document and the purpose or the intent of the parties involved. What was agreed upon? Were the parties involved intend to sign and legally commit to the document? This is the place where the contract content and what the parties expressed in the signed form of the document matter. If If a contract is changed or tampered with before being signed, then the new wording replaces the old ones and hence becomes the new contract offer. If there are two or more people to sign a document, then in that case, a contract is only claimed as a signed document if all the parties have signed the particular document, giving consent to only one particular contract.
3. Has the document been forged or tampered with after signing?
This is the most important part in determining the legal status of digitally signed documents online. The integrity of a document is verified after determining if the document has been forged or not. The document should have been kept intact and not be tampered with after the parties have signed the document. With the use of PKI in an electronic signature, the document is hashed and using an asymmetric encryption key pair that can be encoded and decoded using that particular key. The slightest change in a document can be tracked e.g. change of a comma, a point, or space, as it would create a different hash value. This thereby protects the integrity of a document and helps to track the smallest of the changes.
Digital signatures are secure and safe and are the best way to get signatures for your important documents and files. It easily integrates with any business process through contract management software. It is vital for every digital signature solution provider to abode by the security checklist to provide scalable and secure document esign services.