Are electronic signatures safe? The answer to this most frequently asked question is that
eSignatures are generally very secure. Electronic signatures use encryption and digital certificates to authenticate the signer’s identity and validate the document. Additionally, they are often legally binding in many jurisdictions, making them a reliable method of keeping records.
As businesses become digital-first, contract workflow is at the forefront of digital transformation.
Electronic signatures and workflow automation allow businesses to streamline their contract processes and make their teams more efficient.
But this switch to digital also brings with it the need for increased security. A lapse in it can lead to fraud, identity theft, and loss of billions for businesses and individuals alike. So, governments and businesses have set up various safety measures to ensure that electronic signatures remain legal and secure.
Technology advancements have also created a range of features and security measures to protect
eSignatures and the contract workflow process, allowing organizations to confidently move their operations online and into the digital age.
This article will examine the current safety measures, possible risks, and how this could change in the future.
Digital revolution: exploring electronic signature uses in 2023
eSignatures are widespread throughout various departments and industries. It provides an efficient, secure, and
cost-effective way for businesses to manage their contract workflows and ensure that all contracts are legally binding. Businesses use eSignatures to expedite and secure agreements and contracts. Governments use them to simplify and streamline processes like tax returns and visa applications. The healthcare industry uses them to send and store patient data securely. Financial institutions use them to process payments and transactions securely.
Deploying eSignature solutions has proven beneficial for businesses in many ways, including
better customer and team experience, increased operational efficiency, increased team productivity, and reduced transaction time. Source: IDC'sNorth America eSignature Market Survey, November 2021
With the growing reliance on
eSignatures, it’s genuine to question the risks associated with electronic signatures and if they can be misused. Electronic signatures suffer from forgery, fraud, and exclusions, just like wet signatures. Hence, it’s essential to know what security and authentication measures protect both individuals and businesses from fraud and identity theft. Strengthening electronic signatures with security and authentication measures
When using electronic signatures, knowing the legal and security implications is important. This includes verifying the identity of the person signing and ensuring the data is stored securely.
Electronic signatures’ security and authentication measures are designed to ensure that digital signatures are used responsibly and securely. These measures include security protocols, authentication methods, compliance regulations, and the technology enabling electronic signatures. 1. Security measures for electronic signatures
Security protocols protect digital signatures from unauthorized access, alteration, or misuse. These protocols include encryption, access control, and time-stamping. They are designed to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the signature and that it is not altered or misused.
Encryption is a process used to protect digital data by transforming data into a code that is unreadable to anyone except the intended recipient. In the context of digital signatures, encryption helps to ensure that the digital signature is only readable by the signee and the recipient. This helps to protect against anyone tampering with the signature or forging a new one.
Time-stamping measure involves using a time-stamp to record the time and date when the signature was created. This timestamp can be used to verify the authenticity of the signature and provide an audit trail for the sensitive document or application being protected.
2. Authentication measures for electronic signatures
Authentication methods verify the signer’s identity and the signature’s accuracy. These methods include biometrics, digital certificates, and public key infrastructure. They allow the signer to prove their identity and the integrity of the signature.
a. Two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) requires the user to provide two different forms of authentication to access a protected document or application. This is typically done by entering a username and password and then verifying the user’s identity with a second form of authentication such as a one-time code sent via text message or email. This added layer of security makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to access protected documents and applications.
b. Digital certificates
A digital certificate is a form of digital identity to authenticate the identity of the signee. The certificate contains the signee’s information, such as name, address, email address, and a digital signature. The digital signature is used to verify that the signee is who they claim to be. It helps to protect against forgeries and protect the integrity of the document.
A digital certificate is the most common method of authenticating an electronic signature. This certificate is issued by a trusted third party, such as a government agency or financial institution, and contains information verifying the signer’s identity. When creating a digital signature, the signer’s private key encrypts the document, which can only be decrypted using the public key.
Biometrics involves using physical or behavioral characteristics to identify a person. It includes fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition, and voice recognition. Biometrics helps to ensure that only the signee can access the document. It is an effective way to secure electronic signatures, as biometrics are unique to each individual and cannot be imitated.
Biometric signatures can sometimes be spoofed using a replica of the signer’s fingerprint or iris. Voice signatures are the least secure type of electronic signature, as they can be easily recorded and played back without the signer’s knowledge. Because of this, it is often used in conjunction with other verification forms, such as a PIN or password.
d. Signature verification Electronic Signature verification involves verifying the user’s identity by analyzing the signature to ensure that it matches the signature stored in the system. This process may involve additional authentication measures such as fingerprint or retinal scanning. 3. Compliance and regulations related to electronic signatures
Compliance regulations set the standards for digital signatures. They are designed to ensure that eSignatures are used securely and responsibly and cover data protection, consumer rights, and data privacy. Some standard and industry compliance and regulations include ISO,
SOC2, HIPAA, GDPR, IRS, etc.
countries and regions have their own laws and regulations that must be followed for an electronic signature to be considered valid. It is important to ensure that the authentication measures used to secure electronic signatures comply with these regulations to provide the necessary legal standing. a. eIDAS
Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services (
eIDAS) regulation was created by the European Union to establish proper foundations and legal structure to ensure that people, companies, and public administrations could securely access services and complete transactions online. By meeting these standards, organizations can ensure that their electronic signatures are secure and legally accepted. b. UETA
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (
UETA), a US state law, creates a legal basis for electronic communications when the parties involved have agreed to conduct the transaction electronically. UETA acknowledges the validity of electronic communications and records and gives electronic and paper-based commerce equal legal authority. c. E-SIGN
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (
E-SIGN Act) is a federal law that preempts state laws concerning electronic documents and signatures in interstate and foreign commerce. This act was created to give electronic signatures the same legal status as paper signatures in the US. The E-Sign Act permits electronic records to fulfill any legal requirement for written documentation, so long as the consumer has granted authorization and not retracted it. Read more on E-SIGN act. d. IT act
The Information Technology Act (
IT Act) is one of the eSignature laws in India and recognizes transactions conducted through electronic data interchange, electronic communication, and other means of electronic commerce as valid alternatives to paper-based communication methods and information storage, thereby streamlining the electronic filing of documents. 4. Technology related to electronic signatures
Technology is the foundation of electronic signatures. It includes the software, hardware, and processes that enable digital signatures to be created, stored, and verified. It checks that the signature is not altered or falsified during the signing process and protects the integrity of the signature to comply with various
legal and regulatory requirements. a. Blockchain
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology used to create secure, immutable records of transactions. It stores a record of transactions in multiple computers, allowing for a decentralized record-keeping system. Each transaction is encrypted and stored in a block, linked to other blocks in the chain. This creates an immutable record of all transactions, making it nearly impossible for someone to alter the data stored in the blockchain.
Blockchain is an important component of electronic signatures, as it is used to securely store the data related to the signature and ensure that it is not tampered with.
b. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) focuses on creating intelligent machines that can learn from their environment to solve problems. AI is used in eSignatures to create more secure systems by detecting anomalies in data, such as typos or changes in the signature, and alerting the user of potential problems. AI can also be used to detect fraudulent activity, such as the use of stolen or forged signatures.
c. Quantum-resistant cryptography
Quantum-resistant cryptography is a form of cryptography designed to be resistant to the effects of quantum computing. Quantum computing is a powerful technology that can break through traditional forms of encryption. Quantum-resistant cryptography uses algorithms and techniques resistant to quantum computing, making it more secure than traditional cryptography. This is important for electronic signatures, as it ensures that the signature is secure and cannot be compromised by quantum computing.
With the right security measures in place, eSignatures are just as secure as traditional signatures. They offer several benefits, such as the convenience of
signing documents anywhere, anytime, and saving time and money compared to traditional methods.
Selecting a platform that meets your security needs is essential if you consider using electronic signatures. Make sure to research companies thoroughly and read reviews before making your decision. Read IDC’s considerations while buying an eSignature and contract workflow software.