An electronic seal, often called an “eSeal” is a digital equivalent of a traditional physical seal or stamp used to authenticate and secure electronic documents or data. Electronic seals are primarily used in digital or electronic transactions to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the documents, much like how physical seals or signatures are used in the paper-based world.
A digital seal is a specific type of electronic seal that is used to authenticate and secure electronic documents or data through the application of cryptographic techniques. It involves using digital signatures to ensure the authenticity and integrity of digital content.
While both electronic seals and digital seals are used for document authentication, the key distinction lies in the level of security and formality they offer. Electronic seals are more versatile but less secure, whereas digital seals provide a high level of security and are typically used for formal, legally binding documents and transactions.
Since the beginning of recorded history till date, we have had a wide range of seal practices. Among these, wax and rubber seals have been a popular choice.
It was governments and royalties who started employing distinct designs to ensure the security of their transactions and maintain confidentiality.
However, these historically significant traditional seals come with several drawbacks. The wax seals are susceptible to cracking and chipping. Environmental factors like temperature and humidity would distort the seal impression, making them less durable and practical. This affects the security of the document.
In response to these challenges and in light of digital advancements, digital evolution gave a new face to sealing practices. Now the documents are sealed online.
Electronic seals apply digital or electronic marks to documents or data to confirm their authenticity and integrity. The exact process can vary depending on the technology and methods used, but here’s a general overview of how electronic seals typically work:
Digital Signatures and Electronic Seals are both methods for ensuring the authenticity and integrity of electronic documents, but they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics:
|Characteristic||Digital Signatures||Electronic Seals|
|Purpose||Verify the document signer’s identity and integrity||Authenticate document origin and integrity|
|Authentication||Authenticates the sender and checks document integrity||Confirms document legitimacy; may not verify individual identity|
|Technology||Relies on cryptographic algorithms; uses private and public keys||Can use various methods, including visual marks, watermarks, or digital signatures; may or may not involve cryptography|
|Legal Recognition||Widely recognized and legally binding in many jurisdictions||Legal recognition can vary by region and may not be universally accepted|
Electronic seals consist of several key components that work together to create a secure and verifiable digital seal for electronic documents or data. These components typically include:
This is a cryptographic technique that creates a unique and tamper-evident signature for the document. It is generated using a private key and can be verified using a corresponding public key. The digital signature ensures the authenticity and integrity of the document.
The private key is a secret cryptographic key held by the entity or individual applying the electronic seal. It is used to create the digital signature and should be securely stored and protected to prevent unauthorized access.
The public key is made available to those who need to verify the electronic seal. It is used to confirm the authenticity of the digital signature. Unlike the private key, the public key is not kept secret and can be freely distributed.
A certificate authority is a trusted third-party organization that issues digital certificates. These certificates bind a public key to the identity of the entity or individual holding the private key. The CA’s role is to vouch for the authenticity of the public key and the associated electronic seal.
A hashing algorithm creates a fixed-size, unique representation (hash) of the document’s content. This hash is included in the digital signature and is used to verify the document’s integrity. Any change to the document will result in a different hash.
In some cases, an electronic seal may include a visual representation of the seal, such as a digital image or symbol, which can be added to the document to indicate its authenticity and to replicate the traditional concept of a physical seal.
A timestamp is often included to record the date and time when the electronic seal was applied to the document. This provides additional evidence of when the document was sealed and helps prevent backdating.
To apply electronic seals and verify their authenticity, specialized software is used. This software typically handles the cryptographic operations, key management, and digital signature generation and verification.
Electronic seal regulations and their recognition in court are subject to the laws and regulations of the specific region or country. Here’s a general overview:
US ESIGN Act and the European eIDAS Regulation, generally provide a legal framework for using electronic signatures and seals. However, the recognition and acceptance of electronic seals can depend on several factors, including the level of security and authentication they offer. If electronic seals meet the regulatory requirements for electronic signatures and are considered secure and tamper-evident, they are more likely to be legally valid and compliant.
The admissibility of electronic seals in court depends on the legal system of the jurisdiction and the specific rules regarding evidence and document authenticity. In many countries, electronic seals can be admitted as evidence in court proceedings if they meet certain criteria:
Some of the key advantages include the following:
Electronic seals have many use cases and applications across various industries and sectors. Some of the common use cases and applications of electronic seals include:
Electronic seals are used to authenticate contracts, agreements, and legal documents, making them legally binding and secure. This is common in legal firms, courts, and government agencies. Examples: Contracts, court orders, wills, affidavits, legal agreements, and power of attorney documents.
Organizations use electronic seals to seal business contracts, purchase agreements, and other important business documents, expediting the signing and approval process. Examples: Sales contracts, partnership agreements, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and vendor agreements.
Electronic seals are crucial in the financial industry for securing loan agreements, financial statements, and banking documents. Examples: Loan agreements, mortgage documents, investment contracts, and financial statements.
Electronic seals are used to secure and authenticate electronic health records (EHRs) to ensure patient data confidentiality and integrity. Examples: Electronic health records (EHRs), patient consent forms, medical reports, and insurance claims.
Government agencies use electronic seals for various documents, including permits, licenses, and official reports, to enhance security and reduce paperwork. Examples: Licenses, permits, tax returns, and official reports.
Electronic notaries use electronic seals to verify the authenticity of documents and provide digital notary services, saving time and reducing costs. Examples: Notarized affidavits, wills, deeds, and legal documents requiring notarization.
Real estate agencies and property management companies apply electronic seals to contracts, deeds, and property records to streamline the buying and selling of real estate. Examples: Property deeds, sales contracts, lease agreements, and title documents.
Schools, colleges, and universities use electronic seals to authenticate diplomas, certificates, and academic transcripts. Examples: Diplomas, certificates, academic transcripts, and educational accreditation records.
Electronic seals are applied to shipping and cargo documents to ensure the integrity and security of shipping records and to track the movement of goods. Examples: Bills of lading, cargo manifests, shipping invoices, and customs documents.
Organizations use electronic seals to protect intellectual property rights by sealing patent applications, copyrights, and trademarks. Examples: Patent applications, copyright registrations, trademark certificates, and licensing agreements.
Manufacturers use electronic seals to authenticate quality control documents and certifications, ensuring the quality and safety of products. Examples: Quality control certificates, product inspection reports, and ISO compliance documents.
HR departments use electronic seals to secure employment contracts, employee records, and HR-related documents. Examples: Employment contracts, employee confidentiality agreements, and HR policy documents.
Electronic seals come in various types, each designed to serve specific purposes and meet different security and authentication requirements. Here are some common types of electronic seals:
Recognized by eIDAS Regulation, Qualified E-seal (QEseal) is an electronic seal that holds a high level of recognition and security. A qualified seal creation device, QSeal CD, is used to create a QESeal. It boosts the protection and level of assurance in the seal creation process.
Advanced E-seal does not provide the highest level of security as QEseal, but ensures a substantial level of integrity of the document’s content. It can easily detect any unusual changes made.
Unlike qualified E-seal, it doesn’t require a social device for creation; it can be easily created using various electronic seal creation methods.
Implementing electronic seals involves several key steps:
You need to be very careful while choosing an E-sealing solution for your organization to ensure the safety and protection of documents. There are various factors you need to be vigilant about for your organization.
Electronic seals have emerged as a powerful tool in the world of digital document security and authenticity. Their legal recognition in most countries has promoted efficiency by eliminating the need for physical paperwork. Thus reducing delays and administrative costs. Electronic seals achieve this by integrating digital certificates, encrypted hash values, and timestamps.
In today’s digital landscape, electronic seals have become an essential tool for secure document management. They provide an efficient and legally recognized way to verify and safeguard crucial documents, whether you’re a legal professional, a business owner, or an individual looking to enhance the security of your digital transactions.
When it comes to electronic signatures, Signeasy’s eSignatures is a trusted and user-friendly solution that simplifies the process of signing documents, ensuring the security, reliability, and legal validity of your digital paperwork. Make the switch to electronic signatures today, and experience the convenience and efficiency of digital document management for yourself!
Yes, the electronic seal is valid. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) provide legal validity to electronic seals.
Electronic signatures can be created and used by any individual. Whereas, electronic seals can only be created by a legal individual or organization.
Seals are used on documents to validate the authenticity and origin of the document.