Electronic signatures have changed the way we do business. Gone are the days of waiting weeks for signed agreements to be completed, and watching a never-ending stream of paperwork pile up on your desk. As this technology becomes the new norm, it’s important to understand the difference between eSigning and copy-and-pasting an image of your signature into a PDF document.
The key factor here is that eSignatures can be verified.
Electronic signature verification is important because many of the agreements you’re signing are legally binding. If you want to do business with confidence, those documents will need to be accompanied by an audit trail that links them back to you.
This article dives into how electronic signature verification works, what you need to know as a business, and how you can sign with a compliant and verified eSignature.
What is an electronic signature?
The US Federal ESIGN Act defines an "electronic signature" as an electronic sound, symbol, or process associated with an agreement. It is executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign that agreement.
Electronic signatures have been used across many industries and business functions to sign purchase orders, employment contracts, sales contracts, permission slips, rental/lease agreements, liability waivers, financial documents, and many more essential documents.
Electronic signatures are widely used and legally enforceable in almost every country in the world.
What is electronic signature verification?
Electronic signature verification proves that the signature on a signed agreement was provided by the signee named on the document, like a digital “fact check."
Since an eSignature is made electronically, whether on your computer or mobile phone, your device records information like the date, time, location, and IP address at the time of signing. This data provides a positive determination that the signature belongs to and was executed by the signee.
How does electronic signature verification work?
Electronic signatures are verified by encryption, which is built around public and private keys. Each public and private key is like a partnership: they’re both generated at the same time and are linked upon their inception. The private key can be used to decrypt data when combined with its “partner” public key.
In this sense, the signature verification process works the same way as logging into a website with your email and password. With those two data points combined, your identity can be verified.
With an electronic signature, all of the information required for the signee to prove their identity is embedded in the signature itself. During the process of signing and returning an agreement, you will not only be including the original data and the encrypted data, but also the public key and any other information required to verify your signature.
So, to ensure that your document hasn’t been forged or signed by anyone else, you can verify that a signature is real by decrypting the file using both keys. If their output matches the original data, then you know it’s the real deal.
This process also doesn’t have to be done manually: with Signeasy, file verification is completed repeatedly by our system. This feature is why we are compliant with the eSIGN Act and eiDAS.
Electronic signature verification is also vital in ensuring that only one copy of your document exists, and that there are no falsified copies that exist. In the event that it has been tampered with, eSignature verification confirms which one is the original.
Thanks to verification, only the authentic document will have the public key that works with the private key. The certificate authority can therefore easily identify which document is real and which document isn’t.
Ensuring Signature Integrity
Maintaining the authenticity and integrity of electronic signatures is vital in the verification process. To achieve signature integrity, cryptographic hash functions are commonly utilized. These functions generate a unique digital fingerprint of the signed document, allowing a comparison to be made against the original fingerprint to detect any modifications.
Sophisticated cryptographic algorithms, such as Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA), are employed to create these digital fingerprints. By comparing the calculated hash value with the original hash value, any attempts at tampering or alteration can be identified, ensuring the integrity of the signature.
Creating an Audit Trail
An audit trail is an essential component of electronic signature verification, providing a comprehensive record of the signing process for future reference and legal purposes. It captures important information such as the date and time of the signature, the signer's identity, and any relevant actions or events during the signing process.
The audit trail serves as a reliable source of evidence to demonstrate the validity and authenticity of the signed document. It offers a chronological sequence of events, ensuring transparency and accountability. In the case of disputes or legal inquiries, the audit trail can be used to reconstruct the signing process and verify the authenticity of the signature.
It is crucial to securely store and protect the audit trail from unauthorized access or tampering. By maintaining a robust audit trail, organizations can ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements while reinforcing trust in electronic signature verification processes.
Techniques and Technologies for Electronic Signature Verification
Multiple techniques and technologies, such as digital certificates, biometric authentication, machine learning, and two-factor/multi-factor authentication, enhance the security and accuracy of electronic signature verification, ensuring reliable validation and transaction integrity.
Leveraging Digital Certificates and PKI
Digital certificates and PKI play a crucial role in electronic signature verification. Digital certificates, issued by trusted certification authorities, contain the signer's public key and other identifying information. They provide a mechanism for verifying the authenticity and integrity of the signature.
PKI serves as the underlying infrastructure for managing and validating digital certificates. It establishes a trusted network where certification authorities issue, revoke, and manage digital certificates. By leveraging PKI, electronic signature verification can validate the signer's identity and ensure the integrity of the signed document.
Utilizing Biometric Authentication and Behavioral Analysis
Biometric authentication leverages unique physical or behavioral characteristics to verify the signer's identity. Biometric data, such as fingerprints, facial features, voice patterns, or iris scans, are captured and compared against stored templates for identification.
Behavioral analysis takes into account patterns and habits unique to individuals, such as typing rhythm or signature dynamics. By analyzing these behavioral traits, electronic signature verification can authenticate the signer's identity based on their distinctive patterns.
These biometric authentication and behavioral analysis techniques enhance the security and reliability of electronic signature verification, making it challenging for imposters to forge signatures or gain unauthorized access.
Harnessing Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Machine learning and AI technologies are increasingly integrated into electronic signature verification to enhance accuracy and efficiency. These technologies can learn from extensive data sets to recognize patterns and anomalies associated with genuine signatures and fraudulent activities.
Machine learning algorithms analyze various factors, such as signature shape, stroke dynamics, or timing, to distinguish between genuine and forged signatures. AI-powered systems continuously improve their accuracy by adapting to evolving fraud patterns and new techniques used by forgers.
By leveraging machine learning and AI, electronic signature verification systems can automate the verification process, detect suspicious activities, and reduce false positives and false negatives, resulting in improved overall performance and enhanced security.
Implementing Two-Factor Authentication and Multi-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) provide an additional layer of security to electronic signature verification. These methods require users to provide multiple forms of identification or verification, further validating their identity.
For instance, 2FA may require the signer to provide something they know (e.g., a password or PIN) and something they have (e.g., a mobile device for receiving a one-time verification code). MFA can incorporate additional factors, such as biometric data or physical tokens.
By implementing 2FA or MFA in electronic signature verification, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access, identity theft, or signature forgery, ensuring a higher level of security and trust in the verification process.
Can’t I just type my name as a signature?
Although you can copy and paste an image of your signature on a PDF document or type it as a text field, it won’t be a verified signature.
To ensure important documents are legally binding, signature verification is a must, and a key reason behind why many businesses choose an eSignature solution like Signeasy.
As mentioned above, if you don’t have encrypted and therefore verified documents and signatures, then the contents of the document could be forged, or the signature might not have been executed by the signee.
With Signeasy, you won’t have to worry about doing any of this manually: it’ll all be taken care of by our software.
Are electronic signatures legal?
This is a question we see a lot. The short answer is yes, electronic signatures are legal. The long answer is that there are different legal definitions of what constitutes a binding signature depending on which country you are from.
You can read more about how the legality of electronic signatures applies to your country of residence here.
How do different business functions use electronic signatures?
Ensuring that signatures can be verified is important across every industry and business function, from real estate and marketing all the way to construction and consumer goods.
Electronics are particularly popular among sales professionals, who are constantly sending agreements and contracts to new clients. As these contracts signify the start of a new business relationship, having electronic signature verification is essential for both parties to have full confidence in the deal at hand.
HR teams are also using eSignature solutions to send offer letters, internal approvals, contracts, NDAs, and expense claims for signature. Again, these important documents need to be verified as a point of trust between the employer and employee.
There has also been mass adoption of eSignatures by legal professionals. After the ESIGN Act was created and therefore validated their legality, electronic signatures began overtaking wet signatures as they are much more convenient and yield faster turnarounds.
Our legal customers use Signeasy to send documents like confidentiality agreements, M&A agreements, and employment contracts, as well as personal legal documents such as power of attorney agreements, purchase and sale contracts, and cohabitation agreements.
Choosing an Electronic Signature Verification Solution
Selecting the right electronic signature verification solution is a critical decision for organizations aiming to ensure secure and efficient digital transactions. It is therefore crucial to understand the following points:
Evaluating key features and functionalities
When in the process of selecting an electronic signature verification solution, it is vital to assess the essential features and functionalities provided by different vendors. These include robust signature integrity checks, strong identity verification methods, comprehensive document integrity verification, and reliable audit trail capabilities. It is important to verify if the solution supports various signature formats and is compatible with the file types commonly used within your organization.
Furthermore, it is crucial to evaluate whether the solution offers customization and configuration options that can be tailored to meet your specific business requirements. Look for features such as workflow automation, template management, and seamless integration with existing systems, as they contribute to streamlining the signature verification process.
Considering scalability, integration, and user experience
Scalability plays a pivotal role when choosing an electronic signature verification solution. It is important to determine whether the solution can accommodate your organization's present and future needs as your business expands. It should have the capacity to handle a substantial volume of signature verifications without compromising performance or reliability.
Integration capabilities are another significant aspect to consider. Evaluate whether the solution can seamlessly integrate with your existing systems and applications, such as document management systems, CRM platforms, or workflow management tools. The ability to integrate smoothly ensures a user-friendly experience and minimizes disruptions to established workflows.
User experience should also be prioritized. Seek an intuitive and user-friendly interface that simplifies the signature verification process for both signers and administrators. The solution should provide clear instructions, prompt notifications, and an easily navigable interface to ensure a seamless and efficient user experience.
Pricing models and cost considerations:
Take into account the pricing models and cost structures offered by various electronic signature verification solution providers. Assess whether they offer flexible pricing options, such as per-user licensing, pay-as-you-go models, or tiered plans that align with your organization's usage requirements and budget.
In addition to upfront costs, consider potential additional expenses like setup fees, integration costs, or ongoing maintenance fees. Evaluate the value and return on investment (ROI) that the solution provides in terms of improved efficiency, reduced reliance on paper-based processes, and enhanced security.
Vendor reputation and customer support
Conduct thorough research on the reputation and track record of the electronic signature verification solution vendors under consideration. Look for providers with a strong industry presence, positive customer reviews, and a proven track record of delivering reliable and secure solutions.
Customer support is crucial in ensuring a smooth implementation and continued usage of the solution. Evaluate the level of customer support offered by the vendor, including their availability, responsiveness, and support channels. Look for providers that offer comprehensive documentation, training resources, and timely assistance to address any technical issues or inquiries that may arise.
Taking these factors into account when choosing an electronic signature verification solution will help ensure the selection of a solution that meets your organization's specific needs, provides a seamless user experience, and offers reliable support for secure and efficient signature verification processes.
Although electronic signature verification is quite a technical process, it’s not something you need to worry about if you’re using an eSignature solution like Signeasy.
Signeasy takes many precautions to ensure your documents have verifiable signatures and are fully protected by law.
Your documents are also securely stored in your Signeasy dashboard so you can easily access them whenever you need them again.
For more information on electronic signatures and Signeasy, check out this page.