Creating digital signatures: All information at a glance

A digital signature not only saves paperwork, but is also more secure than a handwritten signature. Find out in this blog post how a digital signature works and how you can have documents signed simply by app with Open as App.

digital signature

Alexandra Müller

App

A digital signature not only saves paperwork, but is also more secure than a handwritten signature. Find out in this blog post how a digital signature works and how you can have documents signed simply by app with Open as App.

What is a digital signature and how does it work?

A digital signature is an electronic signature in which a digital certificate is included. This securely connects the person signing a document or transaction. The digital signature is used to verify and confirm the authenticity of digital messages and documents.

Like handwritten signatures, digital signatures are unique to each user. A special protocol, the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), is used to create them. Within the PKI, a private key and a public key are created using a mathematical algorithm based on long strings of numbers.

When a person signs a document electronically, the algorithm generates a hash value from the data. This is unique and cannot be reversed. The private key is finally used to encrypt the hash value. The resulting string of characters is the digital signature, which is also provided with a time stamp.

The person receiving the document gets a copy of the public key and uses it to decrypt the document. If the hash values match after the public key is used, the digital signature is valid and legally binding.

A digital signature that is linked to a certificate provided by an official certification authority is virtually forgery-proof.

The difference between a digital and electronic signature

While a digital signature focuses on the technical implementation, an electronic signature is a legal term. The digital signature is the proof of the authenticity of a document, but not a signature in a legal sense. The electronic signature, on the other hand, proofs that the person signing wants to make a binding agreement.

According to the eIDAS Regulation (Electronic Identification And Trust Services), there are three different types of electronic signatures:

  • Simple electronic signature (SES)
  • Advanced electronic signature (AES)
  • Qualified electronic signature (QES)

According to eIDAS Regulation, the simple electronic signature (SES) is “data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other electronic data and which is used by the signatory to sign”. It does not require the possibility of identification. It also does not provide protection against any changes to a signed document. A simple electronic signature can be, for example, a scanned signature inserted into a document as an image. Even a textual name in an email can be regarded as a simple electronic signature.

The advanced electronic signature (AES) must fulfil specific requirements regarding security, protection against manipulation and identity verification. Specifically, the FES has to

  • be clearly identifiable to the signatory
  • enable the identification of the signatory
  • be created using signature creation data that the signatory can use under his sole control
  • be linked to the signed data in such a way that any subsequent alteration of the data can be detected.

The advanced electronic signature is evidential and at the same time can be implemented quickly and easily. Therefore, the AES is the best choice for many business transactions.

The qualified electronic signature (QES) has even higher standards and thus also the highest scope in terms of legal bindingness among the three forms. It has a special legal status in the EU and can replace a handwritten signature on paper. In addition to the requirements of the AES, a qualified electronic signature must fulfil the following additional criteria:

  • Verification of the person’s identity before signing (e.g. by video-ident or post-ident).
  • Qualified certificate (certificate in digital form with a high degree of identification) provided by a certified trust centre.
  • Use of a qualified electronic signature creation device (QSCD) provided by a qualified trust service provider.

As the QES requirements are very high and the implementation is complicated, this form of electronic signature is too complicated for many transactions. However, for some documents such as fixed-term employment contracts, guarantees or life insurance policies, the QES is the only alternative to the handwritten signature on paper.

Where do I need digital signatures?

Companies in a wide range of industries benefit from the ability to digitally sign documents. In sales, digital signatures make it possible to speed up the exchange of documents. Offers can be signed faster, which can increase overall efficiency.

In human resources, employment contracts, job references or other contracts can be implemented with digital signatures, even if not all the people involved are at the same place. Especially in times of remote work, this possibility makes all HR processes easier.

For tax consultancies, the switch to digital signatures enables a more transparent and accelerated exchange of sensitive documents. For insurance companies, the exchange of contracts is facilitated and paperwork is significantly reduced. Also in other industries, digital signatures boost digitisation and thus enable an increase in efficiency.

What advantages do digital signatures offer?

In addition to increasing efficiency, digital signatures bring many other advantages. We will name the most important ones:

  • Enable legally binding action on the internet
  • Trustworthy
  • Comply with EU regulations
  • Clear assignment of identity
  • Verifiable
  • Tamper-proof
  • Less paper
  • Time-saving
  • Space-saving, as contracts can be stored directly digitally and do not have to be printed out to have legal effect
  • Better access to documents
  • Irrevocability

Is a digital signature legally binding?

Digital signatures are just as legally binding as handwritten signatures on paper. In the EU, acceptance is regulated by the eIDAS Regulation. Beyond the EU member states, digital signatures are also legally recognised in many other countries: Switzerland, Turkey, USA, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

Digital signing with Open as App

Do you want to switch to a paperless system in your company and have contracts and other documents signed digitally in the future? Then simply use smart apps to do so.

With the no-code platform Open as App, you can create individual apps in no time and without programming knowledge. All you need to do is upload a spreadsheet (Excel or Google Sheets). Our app creator automatically identifies the logic and formulas and transfers them to the app. After that, you can make adjustments and publish your app – that’s it.

And the best thing about it: for a few years now, our apps have been able to capture signatures. With just a few clicks, you can integrate a signature pad into your app and, for example, have offers signed on your smartphone or tablet.

Create your first app with Open as App for free now and sustainably increase productivity in your company.

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