If you’ve had to sign any documents lately, chances are that you’ve signed something electronically. With e-signatures becoming more and more prevalent, you might find yourself asking something like: are e-signatures really secure?
The short answer is yes, e-signatures are secure and it’s completely safe to sign something digitally, rather than printing it out and signing it the old fashioned way. In fact, an electronic signature can be even more secure than a traditional written signature, also known as a “wet signature.”
In this article, we’ll explain in more detail why e-signature solutions are very safe to use, so you can feel confident the next time you sign something electronically and send it off by email.
What Makes E-Signatures So Secure?
When you think of an electronic signature, you probably think of a picture of your written signature, but there’s much more to it than that. Just like a wet signature can be easily forged, it would be far too easy for a fraudster to simply take a picture of your signature and use it without your permission, so how do e-signatures guarantee security?
Well, what makes electronic signatures even more secure than traditional wet signatures is that they come along with something called an electronic record. This electronic record includes legally admissible information about the signed digital document, such as when it was opened, how long it was viewed for, when it was signed, and even the location it was signed from.
If there is ever a dispute about the authenticity of a signature, the information included in a document’s electronic record can be used to resolve any doubts. It can even be used in a court of law if it comes to that.
In addition to the electronic record, secure e-signatures also come along with a certificate of completion, which includes more identifying information about the signing transaction. For example, it can include images of each signature, timestamps, and the IP addresses of signees.
Finally, secure documents that have been signed electronically also have a tamper-proof seal, which shows that the document hasn’t been altered in any way since it was signed.
It’s important to note that these security features are only included with electronic signature software from reputable companies with licensed technology. There are companies out there who offer e-signature solutions that do not use secure e-signature technology, so it’s important to make sure any e-signature software you use is licensed and secure.
Are There Different Types of Electronic Signatures?
Now that you know a bit more about what makes e-signatures secure, let’s take a look at the different types of electronic signatures. There are actually three main types of e-signatures that you might come across from different e-signature solutions.
The first type of electronic signature is called a simple electronic signature (SES). This is the most common one that you’ve probably seen before. A document requiring a simple e-signature has the names pre filled wherever you need to sign it, and you simply select a pre-generated image of a signature from a list of several options and click on it to sign the document. In some cases, you might have to draw your signature with your mouse or just click an “accept” button to sign a document.
The second kind of e-signature is an advanced electronic signature (AES). An advanced e-signature typically requires an additional key in order for you to sign a document, such as a smartphone app that you use to validate your signature.
The third common type of e-signature is a qualified electronic signature (QES). This works in a manner similar to an AES, except that it requires a third-party validation of the signature by a Trust Service Provider (TSP). What this means is that, after you sign a document and validate your signature, a TSP looks at all the information and validates it as well.
In terms of security, the more validation an e-signature requires, the more secure it is. So, a qualified electronic signature is the most secure of the three types.
Why Use Electronic Signatures?
As you’ve learned from this article, the added security that e-signatures provide actually makes them a better option than signing documents the traditional way. The added traceability and accountability that electronic signatures provide is one of the top reasons that more and more organizations are choosing this method over physical signing.
Besides that, the ability to legally sign documents digitally facilitates faster signing and can really speed up processes. Instead of receiving a document by email, printing it out, signing it, scanning it, and sending it back, you can simply sign it with the click of a mouse button.
With e-signatures, everything from work contracts to rental agreements can be signed in a matter of seconds to get the ball rolling, making e-signatures a much more convenient option than written signatures. You no longer have to wait days until everyone gets around to physically signing important documents.
In fact, there is really no reason not to use e-signatures, since they are legally equivalent to written signatures, faster, and more secure. They are also more environmentally friendly because they don’t generate any waste, as printed documents do.
As our day to day lives continue to become more digital, you can expect to see electronic signatures replacing traditional signatures more and more, so you can turn off your printer and put that pen away.