Electronic Signatures

What You Need to Know About Electronic Signature Verification

Will Cannon

If you want to adopt the process of online signatures but are concerned about their security, you need to learn about electronic signature verification.

While it’s easy to doubt the security of online signatures, electronic signature verification is what makes them safe, legally binding, and, even, more effective than ink signatures.

Here’s everything you need to know about electronic signature verification, how it works, and what it can do for you.

What Is Electronic Signature Verification?

Unlike digital signatures, electronic signatures can consist of any digital mark, such as an image, typed letters, or digital drawing, and can be used as a signature on a digital document to indicate agreement or approval.

Their validity comes primarily from multiple pieces of legislation around the world, such as ESIGN (The Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act), UETA (The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act), and eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication, and trust Services). These pieces of legislation are what make an electronic signature valid and legally binding.

The electronic signature verification process uses these legislation pieces to prove the validity of the electronic signature. 

Unlike ink signatures, for which validity is usually determined through witnesses and the signature’s accuracy, electronic signatures can be verified through all the data they record when being used.

These signatures usually record things like the date, geo-location, and many more pieces of user information to trace the signature back to the signee. Platforms like Messagely, for example, employ extra levels of protection, like recording the document after locking it once it has been signed, making it impossible to lose or modify it.

How Does Digital Signature Verification Work?

Digital signature verification is about proving that the signature belongs to and was used by the signee. Since a digital signature is made by using a computer, the computer records information like the date and time, location, user, and other pieces of information to determine that the signature was indeed made by the signee.

It all revolves around encryption and basic encryption principles.

Digital signatures, like many encryption algorithms, are built around public and private keys. A public key and a private key are both generated together and are mathematically linked upon their inception. When combined with a public key, the private key can be used to decrypt data. 

To understand this, think about how you use data to prove your identity online all the time.

When logging in to a website, your email address and password are required to gain access to your account to keep your account secure and to make sure only you can access it. These two requirements prove your identity to a website. 

The verification process works under the same principles. When signing a document online, you create enough information to act in the same manner as an email address and password to prove your identity.

With a digital signature, the signee sends all the information needed to prove their identity through the digital signature. When signing and returning the document, the document will not only include the original data and the encrypted data, but it will also include the public key and the rest of the information needed to verify the signature.

When someone wants to verify that a signature is real, the verifier can decrypt the file using both keys to compare their output with the original data. If both are the same, the verifier knows the document hasn’t been tampered with.

Think of the data encryption like a safe box where you place an envelope. The only way to access the safe box is with your public key. You, as a sender, send the safe box to your recipient. Once your recipient returns your safe box, you can open it to see its contents. If all the contents you had before are still there, you know the sender didn’t access your safe box.

This process doesn’t have to be done manually. Instead, it’s done periodically and constantly by the verification system, also referred to as the Certification Authority, which is usually a part of the electronic signature platform.

When verifying an electronic signature to be certified, the certification authority does something similar. 

The Certificate Authority has its own public and private key combo that it uses to sign digital certificates for the key holder. With these keys, the Certificate Authority validates the document that the creator makes, adding an extra layer of security to the electronic signature.

Giving the key to the receiver is usually done automatically by the platform. The platform simply creates both keys and assigns the public key to the user when creating or modifying a document on which to add an electronic signature field.

Once the key is assigned to the document, it can easily be identified by the system through a digital certificate.

The system will determine the settings of the digital certificate in order to link the public key to them. In the case of digital signatures, most platforms will require you, the user, to set up or sign the certificate before creating a signature. This process is usually done automatically when a new account is being created so you don’t have to spend extra time setting things up before sending your first document.

Only to verify users?

Electronic signature verification is used not only to verify who signed your document but to ensure that only one copy of your document exists.

For example, what happens if someone makes a copy of the document and falsifies the electronic signature? How do you know which one is real?

That’s when the rest of the electronic signature validation process comes in. 

Since only the original document will have the key that will work with the private key, the certificate authority can easily identify which document is real and which document isn’t. And, since there’s no way to replicate either key, there’s no way to fully replicate a document that has been electronically signed.

Although somewhat technical, electronic signature verification is a fairly simple process that involves digital cryptography to identify and validate each document and the signatures on it.

Additionally, some platforms, like Signaturely, offer you even more layers of security for your documents and signatures.

How Does Signaturely Verify My Electronic Signatures?

Although multiple electronic signature solutions are content to use only the basics, Signaturely makes your documents and electronic signatures even safer through AATL compliance.

Here’s how:

What’s AATL?

AATL, or Adobe Approved Trust List, is an Adobe program that lets users create reliable digital signatures when the signed document is opened with Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader.

Through this program, Adobe enables users around the world to electronically sign documents, certifying them to comply with most regulatory requirements around the world. This makes them not only reliable for the users, but legally binding in most countries.

How does AATL work?

AATL is an approved trust list. Adobe carefully vets and selects the members of that list to ensure that their services and credentials meet their requirements.

To state it simply, Adobe uses its giant platform and reputation to back up the members in front of other organizations and countries.

Once the members are admitted onto the approved trust list, they become certification authorities and can develop tools to verify and validate electronic signatures.

How does AATL help me?

As we’ve mentioned, AATL helps you acquire legal validity for your signatures around the world. Since Signaturely is fully compliant with AATL, your signatures will be valid in most countries.

With AATL compliance, you can easily expand your business internationally by using legally binding documents and contracts, knowing your electronic signatures aren’t just legally binding but are also easy to verify.

How does AATL compliance work in my documents?

For you, AATL compliance means your document cannot be altered once it has been signed. Although many people complain that they have to re-send a document whenever there’s a change needed, it’s actually safer this way.

Why?

Because this prevents any changes made in bad faith.

Think about it. If you could sign a document and then another person could change what the document says, they could change whatever they needed to make more money, make you work more, or force you to give them more resources in a legally binding document.

With Signaturely, this cannot happen.

Before sending a document, the document locks itself, so the only thing that can be added to the document is the other person’s signature. If you send the document to multiple people, the only thing each person will be able to do to the document is sign it.

Once signed, the document locks itself, so no further changes can be made.

Conclusion

Electronic signature verification, although somewhat complex to understand, is extremely easy to obtain. In reality, you’ll rarely need to worry about verifying the digital signatures on your files, just as you rarely have to think about verifying your ink signature on paper documents.

However, it’s always good to know that platforms like Signaturely take more than the minimum precautions to ensure your documents have verifiable signatures and are fully protected.

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