Digital signature is one of the most secure way of securing a document at the moment. It helps in creating the trust in receiver and makes you feel safe for any fraud.
People have always been very fond and protective of the information or the data that they have in their possession guarding it very closely. The very first instance of such an occurrence was recorded in human history was during the Julius Caesar era. He is credited with creating one of the earliest cryptographic systems to send military messages to his generals. The main problem faced during those days was that of maintaining the secret key secret. Also in the centuries to follow key management was proving to be a pain. But today the concept of key management has become so much simpler because of the advent of technology where in many digital signature algorithms are set up in order to form guidelines in maintaining the sanctity of the key.
Digital signatures simply put are normal signatures but in an e-format. This was introduced to overcome the following drawbacks in the existing cryptography procedure.
Sending information over an electronic network posed several security problems:
- Since anyone could intercept and read the file, you need confidentiality
- Since someone else could create a similar counterfeit file, the bank needs to authenticate that it was actually you who created the file
- Since you could deny creating the file, the bank needs non-repudiation
- Since someone could alter the file; both you and the bank need data integrity
To overcome these issues, digital signature software performs a number of steps pre written in the digital signature algorithm. The first step is to “sign” the sheet containing the information with a digital signature.
Digital signatures can be used for many types of documents where traditional pen-and-ink signatures were used in the past. However, the mere existence of a digital signature is not adequate assurance that a document is what it appears to be. Moreover, government and enterprise settings often need to impose additional constraints on their signature workflows, such as restricting user choices and document behavior during and after signing. This is where digital signature software comes into picture, as it helps us to effectively sign the various documents. For example, the PDF language provides mechanisms for two broad categories of tasks:
- Fully trusting an electronic document by enabling verification that the signed document has not been altered and that it was signed by someone the recipient trusts
- Creating and controlling feature-rich and secure digital signature workflows
To digitally sign a PDF document, you must have a digital ID, and to verify other people’s signatures, you must first share your digital IDs and add each other to your Trusted Contacts list.
Now the question arises as to how to create a digital signature. It is as simple as getting a rubber stamp done, but of course with some procedure and a bit of paperwork involved. The signature authorities collect a nominal fee for the signature authorized to you for a period time, during which it is yours to use. Once the period gets over the signature can be renewed or else the authorities makes it available to some other desiring person. The digital signature binds the document in the sense once you affix your digital signature no matter what no one can alter the document, unless of course you give the key to someone else. So you can be sure that the document will retain its integrity and any changes made will immediately render the digital signature invalid thereby giving you maximum accountability.
Digital Certificates provide the foundation of a public key infrastructure (PKI). These are electronic credentials, issued by a Certification Authority (CA), that are associated with a public and private key pair. The certifying authorities issue digital certificates, which contain a public key and the identity of the owner. The certificates are issued in PFX (Personal inFormation eXchange) file format protected by a password. Digital certificates are what that makes the digital signatures authentic. Timestamping is another important mechanism for the long-term preservation of digital signatures, time sealing of data objects to prove when they were received, protecting copyright and intellectual property and for the provision of notarization services.
There is a new fad in the world these days it is called electronic signature. It is very similar to digital signatures the difference is it is more encrypted. An electronic signature, or e-signature, is any electronic means that indicates either that a person adopts the contents of an electronic message, or more broadly that the person who claims to have written a message is the one who wrote it (and that the message received is the one that was sent). By comparison, a signature is a stylized script associated with a person. In commerce and the law, a signature on a document is an indication that the person adopts the intentions recorded in the document. Both are comparable to a seal.
The important reasons as to why one should take up the digital signatures:
- Digital signatures make it easier to prove your fiscal compliance
- Digital signatures make it easier to provide trade law evidence
- Think about your reputation and responsibility: a customer-centric professional
- To overcome acquisition fraud: ghost invoices
- Return on investment
The digital signatures are here to stay as many governments around the world are making it compulsory for businesses today.
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Stanislav Krotov is a technical writer with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of mobile application development and IoT technology. ( Moscow State University of M.V. Lomonosov )