A digital signature (not to be confused with a digital certificate) is an electronic signature that can be used to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of a document, and possibly to ensure that the original content of the message or document that has been sent is unchanged. Digital signatures are easily transportable, cannot be imitated by someone else, and can be automatically time-stamped. The ability to ensure that the original signed message arrived means that the sender cannot easily repudiate it later.
A digital signature can be used with any kind of message, whether it is encrypted or not, simply so that the receiver can be sure of the sender's identity and that the message arrived intact. A digital certificate contains the digital signature of the certificate-issuing authority so that anyone can verify that the certificate is real.
Around the globe, people are using digital signatures for both personal and business documents and transactions. Contracts and agreements, loans and leases, forms and orders can all be signed legally and securely, and they can offer distinct advantages over handwritten signatures on paper:
- They're paper-free – no printing, filing, faxing, or mailing.
- Internet delivery means no mailing costs.
- Sign on a mobile device anywhere, anytime, for instant transmission – no missed forms or waiting for the mail.
- Documents are tamper-proof due to digital encryption and audit trails, heightening security.
- Storage is electronic, with unalterable signed data – no forgery or human error in processing.
Digital signature can be particularly useful for:
- Government agencies in regulated sectors with workflows subject to formal approval;
- Organizations must submit documents that need to be approved by various offices;
- Representatives of organizations that use, or services that require commercial building and the provision of reports or contracts signed;
- Away from executives such as a signature is required to activate the processes;
- Organizations which cooperate with external partners and require approval for workflows;
- Web portals with external modules that require compilation and signing.
- Note that the type of documents to which to apply the digital signature is particularly composite, and includes:
- Sales proposals, contracts with customers.
- Purchase orders, contracts / agreements with partners.
- Contracts, agreements, acts of the board.
- Leases, contracts, expense reports and reimbursement approvals.
- Human Resources: Documentation of employment of employees, presence control cards.
- Life Sciences: Questions and proposals, QC records, standard operating procedures (SOPs), policies, work instructions.
- Mechanical work: drawings, sketches, plans, instructions and relations of production.
- Health services: medical and patient consent forms, medical exams, prescriptions, laboratory reports.