Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature – Features and Differences

Most people use the words digital signatures and electronic signatures interchangeably. However, they do not mean exactly the same thing. Businesses use digital signatures to secure documents, and certification authorities often issue them. Their strength is the tamper-evident feature.

On the other hand, electronic signatures verify a contract that the signer has agreed to abide by. The signer makes the electronic signature in person on the electronic document using a tool such as a stylus pen.

Read on to discover other differences between Digital signatures and Electronic Signatures.

Difference between Digital signatures and Electronic Signatures

Purpose

A digital signature’s primary document is to protect the document. It protects the document from alterations. On the other hand, entities use an electronic signature primarily to verify a document.

Regulation and Audit

Certification authorities issue and regulate digital signatures. In the case of blockchain technology, it is issued by the blockchain software, which in turn is maintained by the community.

No one regulates an electronic signature. However, you can get the signed copy printed and notarized as a true copy.

Cryptographic Algorithms

Issuers of digital signatures use cryptographic algorithms to create them. This makes them hard to forge or alter. You do not need a cryptographic algorithm to create an electronic signature.

Verification

You can verify a digital signature using your ID. That is because you need to provide some identity to get a digital signature. There is no way to verify an electronic signature electronically.

Advantages

A digital signature is more suited to securing documents. It is easy to confirm a digital signature’s authenticity and detect any alterations on it. Electronic signatures are easy to use and implement. However, they are easy to forge and hard to verify their authenticity.

Reason for Signing

A signer uses a digital signature to protect the document from tampering. Their primary concern is the security of the document. With electronic signatures, the signer uses it to indicate they agree with the contents of the document.

Visual Mark

In a digital signature, the “fingerprint” or “digital mark” is embedded in the document’s contents by “hashing” them with the digital certificate. With electronic signatures, the visual mark can be a handwritten signature, PIN code, signer’s name, or other expressions of consent.

How a Digital Certificate Works

A digital signature is comparable to a fingerprint that is built into a document. A digital signature will change if the contents of the document are altered or if the parameters used to generate it are altered.

Once a digital signature is created, a digital certificate is issued. The user can then use the digital certificate to verify the signed document’s authenticity. Third parties who want to check if the document they received is authentic can also request a digital signature.

When there is a risk of forgery, then digital signatures are preferred. It is easy for a fraudster to forge electronic signatures and then submit fake documents signed with the forged electronic signature.

That is something that is almost impossible to achieve with digital signatures. And even if it is done, the cost of forging a digital signature may outweigh the benefits. That makes digitally signed documents a lot more secure than physically or electronically signed documents.

The cryptographic operation is used to sign digital documents by mathematically binding the contents of the document with the details of the signer.

The resulting digital fingerprint can verify the authenticity and origin of the signed document. It also reveals the signer of the document.

How an Electronic Certificate Work

An electronic signature is simply any electronic representation made using a sound, text, drawing, or even a mouse click. While it is easy to forge an electronic signature, it is still legally binding if both parties have signed the electronic document.

Overall, an electronic signature’s primary goal is to show the signer had an intention to commit to a contract. Moreover, when two parties co-sign a document electronically, the electronic signatures help to identify the authenticity of the documents.

Each party gets a copy of the electronically signed document, usually via email.

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