Are E-Signatures Safe? What You Need to Know

Are E-Signatures Safe

It is totally expected to take chance upon the query “Can a digital signature be forged?” Truth to tell, wet signatures tend to be easily forgeable. Conversely, e-signatures have quite a few in-built security and authentication layers, besides the indispensable transaction proof that would be admissible in a court of Law. Are E-Signatures Safe? What You Need to Know is presented in an outline here. This is sans doubt, a vital topic to learn more about the scam happening around us.

Electronic record

In contrast to physical signatures, e-signatures come equipped with an electronic record that works for us both as an audit trail as well as proof of transaction. The audit trail embraces all actions’ history, with vital and sundry details such as the date the said document opened, the length it was viewed, when signatures were put to it. In addition, contingent upon the services provider, and provided the signer consents to permit access to their location, the record will offer the geolocation where the document was signed. 

In the event of any signer disputing their signature, or in case there’s any question regarding the transaction, the audit data can be had by all transaction participants who can subsequently resolve the objections. 

Completion certificates 

A completion certificate embraces each signer’s signature image, important event timestamps, each signer’s IP address, and sundry identifying info. Completion certificates with deeper detail include a consumer disclosure pointing out that the signer consented to use e-signature. The consumer disclosure is less frequently given as a separate document but ought always to be included. 

Tamper-evident seal 

Once the signing process is finished, all documents are digitally sealed with the aid of PKI or Public Key Infrastructure, an industry standards technology. The seal points out that the electronic signature is valid, and that the document has not undergone any tampering, or altered since the signing date. 

Electronic signature: mechanics 

The precise signing process can have slightly differing characteristics across e-signature providers. However, the basic mechanics of the best providers share commonalities. 

Sending : 

  • Naturally, you are to upload the document that needs the signing; 
  • Tag sections that call for initials, signatures, phone numbers; 
  • Select signer authentication methods; 
  • Send the file thru the service to your designated recipient’s email. 

Signing: 

  • Email notification is received (with a clickable link) that enables the reviewing and signing of a document; 
  • Identification verification prior to signing (in the event the sender chooses that option); 
  • Peruse the disclosure documents and consent to using the electronic process; 
  • Reviewing the document to finish any fields, including essential documents; 
  • Signature style adoption; 
  • The actual signing takes place; 
  • There’s automatic routing back of the document, or they are sent onto the following signer.

After all recipients have put their signatures to a document, a notification is sent to them. The document is stored electronically where it may be viewed/downloaded. This is consummated with mandatory comprehensive tamper-proof features, in-built privacy and security characteristics. The latter are inescapable if the provider wishes to stand out. 

Signer identity verification methods 

E signature technology provides a good number of options intended for signer identity verification prior to accessing the document and signing it. 

  • Said options include: Email address: signers input their own email address, and the latter is matched against the one used in the invitation;
  •  Access code: the sender sends a one-time passcode that signers are obligated to enter; 
  • Phone call: signers have to call a phone number and input their name and access code; 
  • SMS: signers are to enter a one-time passcode sent thru texting; 
  • Knowledge-based: signers are asked to provide information, such as past vehicles owned, or previous addresses; 
  • ID verification: eIDs or government-issued IDs are used for ID verification. 

In situations that call for more signature validation, as is often the case in the EU, there are further e-signature types that are truly spot-on: 

  • Advanced e-signature: 
  • Calls for higher security, identity verification, and authentication level that establishes a link to the signer; 
  • A certificate-based digital ID issued by a reliable service provider; 
  • Qualified E-signature: deploying a secure signature creation device, this e-signature type is considered at par with wet ink signatures in some jurisdictions. 

Why must security be so vital for e-signatures? 

E signature security level differs across providers. All the more reason why robust security and protection must find its way into each of their business areas. Security-aware companies are likely to put in place these security measure types:

  • Physical security: Secures the systems and buildings where the systems are resident; 
  • Platform security: stands sentinel over data and processes stored in systems; 
  • Security certification/processes: guarantee that the providers’ employees and partners follow the best practices for security and privacy. 

Physical security:

  • Geo-dispersed data centres with active as well as redundant systems, besides logically and physically separated networks; 
  • Commercial-grade border routers and firewalls geared toward the detection of IP based and Denial-of-Service attacks; 
  • Protection against malware;
  • Secure and close to real-time data replication; 
  • 24/7 online security;
  • Stringent measures of physical access control with monitored video surveillance.

Platform security

  • In transit data encryption and at rest TLS connections and AES 256-bit encryption security ; 
  • HTTPS data access and transfer; 
  • Deployment of SAML or Security Assertion Markup Language, offering users the latest web authentication and authorisation capacities; 
  • PKI tamper-evident seal; 
  • Completion certificate; 
  • Signature verification and immutable signing actions and completion status capture ; 
  • Quite a few authentication options. 

Security certifications/processes:

Relevant Law, regulations and industry-standard compliance, administering electronic signatures and digital transactions, including:  

  • ISO 27001:2013 :

The most advance global security assurance today; 

  • SOC1 Type 1 & SOC 2 Type2:

Both reports assess internal controls, procedures and policies, with the SOC 2 report concentrating on those directly concerning security, availability, processing integrity, privacy and confidentiality a service organisation; 

  • PCI DSS or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard:

Guarantees safe and secure credit cardholder information handling; 

  • CSA or Cloud Security Alliance and STAR or Security Trust Assurance and Risk program: Consists of important transparency principles, strict auditing and standard harmonisation; 
  • Specialised industrial regulation compliance, like PHIPA, HIPAA, 21 CFR Part 2 and FTC, FHA, FINRA and IRS specified rules; 

Development practices and security management processes, including 

  1. Disaster recovery planning and business continuity, 
  2. Employee training, 
  3. Formal code reviews, 
  4. Secure coding practices, 
  5. Regular code based security audits.

Differentiating between e-signatures and digital signatures

The terms digital signature and electronic signature are frequently commingled erroneously. Digital signatures are always a form of electronic signature. However, all electronic signatures are not digital signatures. E Signatures are any sound, symbol or process that shows the intention of signing something. For example, even a verbal recorded confirmation is deemed an e signature. Even your typed name on the dotted line is an e signature. 

An important e signature variant: the digital signature 

A digital signature is a type of electronic signature that’s a mathematical algorithm regularly used to validate a message’s authenticity and integrity. The said message could be an email, a credit card transaction, or digital document. Digital signatures make a virtual fingerprint, used to identify users as well as shield digital message document information. Digital signatures are considered the most secure of all e signature types by certain authorities. 

Digital signatures: the mechanics

The following form the bedrock of digital signatures: 

  • Hash function – A hash function is a fixed length number and letter string yielded from a mathematical algorithm and randomly sized file like an email, picture, document, or other data type. The generated string is adherent to the file being hashed and is a one-way function. A computed hash is not amenable to reversion to look for other files that may yield the same hash value. 
  • Public key cryptography – Asymmetric encryption, or public-key cryptography, is a cryptography method that employs a key pair system. One key, known as the public key, concerns itself with data encryption. The other key, known as the private key, involves itself with data decryption. Public key cryptography can guarantee integrity thru the creation of a digital signature of the message employing the sender’s private key. Message hashing and hash value encryption with private keys accomplish this. Subsequently, any alterations in the message will give different hash values; guarantee confidentiality by encrypting the whole message with the recipient’s public key. The implication is that only the recipient with the corresponding private key can read the message; user identity verification employs the public key and checks it against a certificate authority. 
  • PKI or Public Key Infrastructure – PKI is made up of standards, policies, people, and systems that support public key distribution and individuals’/entities’ identity validation with digital certificates, besides a certificate authority; 
  • CA or Certificate Access – A CA is a trusted third party that concerns itself with a person’s identity validation and yields a public/private key pair on their behalf. Alternatively, the CA associates an existing public key given by the person to that person. Upon an identity validation, a digital certificate is issued that the CA signs. The digital certificate then may verify a person associated with a public key when requested. 
  • Digital certificates – Digital certificates are cognate to driver licenses in that their purpose is to identify a holder’s certificate. Digital certificates have the individual’s/organisation’s public key and are digitally CA signed; 
  • Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)/OpenPGP – Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)/OpenPGP is offered as an alternative to PKI. Here, users show their trust of other users by signing verifiable identity certificates. The signatures’ interconnectedness is directly proportional to the chances of verifying a user. 

Conclusion

E-signatures are undoubtedly the current standard-bearers for data integrity and security. Therefore, it certainly pays to ensure a good understanding of e signatures. The protection of your documents and transactions is a foregone conclusion with e-signatures. 

Should ever a rare situation arise when e signatures are not working out for you, drop us a line at fastactionrefund.com.

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