What is a digital signature? Much like a regular signature, digital signatures are used to authenticate the identity of a person signing an online contract, email or anything else in need of signing, on the Internet. They are also used to help determine the integrity, authenticity, and originality of any online document. These signatures are often used for financial and other business transactions (although they can be used with any kind of document), in which case the receiver needs to know that the document was sent by the sender and was not stolen and forged during transit.
The use of digital signatures is much more simple than it might sound. You might need additional software on the computer that you’re using, but that’s probably the most complicated part of the entire process. Let’s assume that you are sending a contract (of any type) to a business colleague. You would first need to copy and paste the contract into an email message. You then would use software to obtain a mathematical summary of the contract that you’re sending. You’ll receive a hash, or a private code, that your colleague will receive as well. He will know it’s from you because he will see that his hash matched up with yours, verifying the contract and proving to him that it is authentic.
There is, however, much more that can be done with these electronic signatures other than dealing with contracts. There can also be more than one signature to any particular document. You can use them to sign PDFs, add timestamps to the signature allowing for further proof of authenticity, and choose to make them visible or invisible. There are plenty of ways that you can use them in today’s professional world.
One of the biggest and best benefits of using digital signatures is that they aren’t your normal signature with a pen and paper. Many people think that they have an unforgeable signature that will authenticate any paper that they sign. While some signatures are more intricate than others, any normal signature can be duplicated following some simple tricks that anybody with simple forging skills would know. Using digital signatures doesn’t give forgers that same chance. It is impossible to duplicate, making your electronic signature unique.
There are a few different ways to get your digital signature and to personalize it too. You’ll need a specific type of software in order to get your own signature. It will help you either purchase a pre-determined signature from a third-party authority, or you can decide to create your own signature. When you create your own signature, you may be asked for some personal information, like your name, address, etc. This will help give your signature an authenticity that can’t be matched.
Although the earliest forms were seen in the 1970’s, digital signatures are becoming more and more important as technology advances. Since we’re in a world that is going paperless and more electronic, these signatures have started to go mainstream. Not only is technology advancing and making it easier for us to use digital signatures, but it’s also given forgers a lot of time to practice and master their trade. Going digital is the way of the present as well as the future. Digital signatures aren’t only extremely helpful, they’re also necessary.
[author] Jared Jaureguy is an experienced technology consultant who has helped many businesses grow and expand. He enjoys photography and all things tech. You can follow him @jaredjaureguy or on his website technologyhall.com. [/author]