What is the difference between an Electronic and Digital Signature?

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With the use of electronic signatures becoming more prevalent in today’s office atmosphere, businesses are quickly recognizing the value and benefits that come along with adopting electronic processes. I spend a considerable amount of my time speaking with these businesses, and discussing the best ways to incorporate eOriginal’s SmartSign electronic signature solution into their workflow. A common question that I am frequently asked is “what is the difference between Electronic and Digital signatures”?

U.S. legislation (ESIGN/UETA) defines an electronic signature as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record”. One of the most commonly used Electronic Signatures today is the Text Typed signature; text typed meaning that one has used a keyboard to type their name, with the intent to sign “something”. Although this is the most common, electronic signatures are not limited to this method. SmartSign allows businesses to have documents e-signed using other accepted methods such as voice, mouse, signature pads, iPad/iPhone (with your finger or stylus), smart-phones and the list goes on. What is important to note; an electronic signature can be applied almost by any means, but it is just the first step in a fully secure and compliant electronic signature process.

Digital signatures require the use of a digital certificate, essentially a type of key or code that utilizes cryptographic algorithms to assure the integrity and authenticity of electronic media, and the information within. Put simply, the application uses an algorithm to generate a unique code by processing the source file. That unique code, think of it as a document’s fingerprint, is then encrypted using the private key stored in the digital certificate. The result of all this processing is a secure document that is tamper evident. If any value in the source document is corrupted or maliciously altered, it can be easily detected by verifying the original signature.

Secure solutions like eOriginal’s SmartSign utilize a combination of electronic and digital signatures. After the electronic signature has been captured and applied to the document, SmartSign then binds the electronic signature and the document content with a second digital signature. This allows SmartSign to lock down the document, adding further assurance that the information in the document has not changed since the electronic signature was applied. This process allows businesses to take advantage of technology, removing paper from the workflow, saving time, money, and helping to increase revenue, all while maintaining the legal integrity, admissibly and enforceability of your important documents.