There is a lot of confusion around electronic signatures and digital signatures, from their differences to which types are legally binding. That’s why we’re breaking down the myths to answer all your questions surrounding electronic and digital signatures! We have listed some of the most common digital signature myths and provided you with the facts.
MYTH: Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures are the Same Thing
Electronic signatures are used to refer to a signature that's applied electronically as opposed to on a physical piece of paper, for example a scanned image of a signature. Not all electronic signatures’ assurance levels are the same as the most basic type cannot confirm the content within a document, nor can it provide security and assurance of the signature There are different assurance levels of electronic signatures and can be used to confirm content within a document, however not all electronic signatures’ assurance levels are the same.
Whereas digital signatures are a type of electronic signature; the key difference is the assurance level. Digital signatures provide the highest level of assurance as they are backed by a digital certificate providing proof to the identity of the signer and sometimes even the time of signing. In addition, they provide tamper-proofing against any changes after signing the document.
Digital signatures verify a documents content. Simple Electronic Signatures do not.
MYTH: The Recipient Needs Special Software to Receive My Digitally Signed Document
Recipients of your digitally signed document don't need any additional software to verify the signature beyond what they'd normally need to open the document. For example, a digitally signed PDF can be opened in Adobe Reader, and a digitally signed Microsoft Word document can be opened in Word.
MYTH: All Types of Electronic Signatures are Legally Binding
While electronic signatures are legally acceptable in court, not all types offer non-repudiation. Many regulations, such as eIDAS, and US states now require digital signatures over the basic form of electronic signatures. They provide authenticity and integrity for documents that cannot be disputed and hold up in a court system.
MYTH: All Electronic Signatures are Compliant Under eIDAS
With a simple level of electronic signature, you can sign a document by scanning your signature or ticking a box. This isn’t providing assurance or covering the purpose of signing a document at all. The document can still be tampered with, and a “signature” can easily be forged, meaning neither integrity nor authenticity of the document are guaranteed.
Under eIDAS, signatures must meet the following requirements:
- Be uniquely linked to the signatory
- Capable of identifying the signatory
- Created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can, with a high level of confidence, use under his sole control
- Linked to the data signed in such a way that any subsequent change in the data is detectable
By using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), digital signatures have the capability to satisfy all of the above requirements.
MYTH: Anyone Can Verify the Identity of a Signer / Signature
No, not everyone can verify the identity of a signer or signature. A verified electronic signature is known as a digital signature and a trusted third party, known as a Certificate Authority (CA) is responsible for verifying your identity. Certificate Authorities bind your identity to a PKI-based digital certificate which allows you to use your certificate to create digital signatures.
MYTH: Organizations Don’t Need QES
GlobalSign recommends Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) for organizations operating in Europe as they meet the most stringent verification requirements under eIDAS. A QES is a digital signature created using a qualified digital certificate and a Qualified Signature Creation Device (QSCDP), issued by a Qualified Trust Service Provider (QTSP).
We hope these answers some of your questions around electronic and digital signatures. You can trust GlobalSign to help choose the right signature to meet your needs.