Know more about a digital signature certifacte and how to use it when required.

What is a Digital Signature Certificate and How to Use One

In today’s world of online documents, video meetings, and eSignatures, there’s a long list of new skills you’ve added to your resume. There are more tech skills and terminology than most of us could imagine. 

You may never become an IT professional, but there are a few things in the digital business world that you need to learn. You may already be familiar with electronic signatures, encryption, or even clickwrap. Something you may not know about is a digital signature certificate or a DSC. 

If you’re interested in adding another word to your tech vocabulary, read on. We’ll explain what a DSC is, how to use one, and whether DCSs are right for your business.

The difference between eSignatures and digital signatures

Before you learn about digital signature certificates, you need to know the definition of a digital signature.

An eSignature, or electronic signature, is a pretty simple concept. By 2021, you’ve probably already filled an online form that required your electronic signature. 

One of these electronic signatures echoes a wet signature, its “real-life” counterpart. A wet signature gets its name from the wet ink used to sign a physical piece of paper. This type of eSignature is completed by using a stylus or finger to “write” your signature; however, there are some electronic signatures that require only your typed name. 

eSignatures are used for everything from purchasing a new car online to sending over an ad proposal to accepting cookies on a website. If you click a box saying “I accept,” that is another kind of electronic signature, known as “clickwrap.”

A digital signature is the third type of electronic signature. The digital signature is set apart from a standard electronic signature through an extra step of authentication. A secure digital key is issued by the server to their clients. This is known as a PKI or public key infrastructure. 

A PKI keeps signatories safe by verifying authentication on each side, so only the involved parties have access to the document information. Sometimes, these algorithms require a private key for encryption and make use of hashing strategies. 

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, also known as the ESIGN Act, gives validation and legality to all agreements made and consent to contracts given online, including in issues of non-repudiation. Whether you go through that extra step of authentication or not, your eSignature is a legally binding agreement.

What is a digital signature certificate?

A digital signature certificate, sometimes referred to as a document signing certificate, is a digital ID for individual organizations or websites. Also known as DSCs, digital signature certificates are issued to certify and validate the trusted identity of the ID holder using specific information that is unique to that individual or organization. They’re commonly issued by a certificate authority. 

There is a rigorous and technologically dense list of factors used in the authentication process that determines which information should be used to create a DSC. This information could include a username, email address, or country of residence for the person signing the digital document. The date and time of the signature are also included. Specificity is the key.

A digital signature certificate confirms your identity, so all involved parties have legal security without concern of tampering. Having a specific digital certificate ensures a secure connection between one computer and the other, as the two are connected through PKI. Digital signature certificates also ensure that both the signer and the contract or document creator are using the appropriate technology for the document.

How do you use it?

To use a DSC, first you need to obtain one. You can internally make one on your own or create one through a Certifying Authority (CA) for larger-scale projects or commercial businesses. If you use a Certifying Authority, you need to use back-up documentation to certify your digital identity. These DSC’s typically last one or two years, so you need to get them recertified annually.

Do you need a digital signature?

If you’re only using digital signing for your small business or freelance contracts, you can probably go without a digital signature. Though the internet can be a scary place and more security sounds appealing, a digital signature is ultimately not necessary for small business cybersecurity.

Instead, an electronic signature can get the job done. Asking your clients or customers to go through the extensive process of obtaining a DSC or getting one for your own organization is a huge expenditure of energy that won’t be worth it for your needs. 

When would you need a digital signature?

Since they offer extreme security features and rigorous vetting processes, DSCs are extremely necessary for certain high-level functions like signing official government documents and cryptography. In these cases, your identity is at stake, and you want to take as many precautions as possible to keep that information secure.

Although DSCs can be overkill for most other transactions, they provide transparency and proof that documents have not been altered. It’s the safest way to do government business on the internet.

For contracts that aren’t government-issued, your information is safe and legal with a standard electronic signature.

Stick with Revv, and we’ll get the job done

Though it’s nice to know what a digital signature is, it’s not something most people need to use in their daily lives. If you’re a business owner who recently had to move most of your quotidian processes online, you have other pressing issues more deserving of your time.

You don’t need to be a pro at managing legal documents web design to run a successful business—that’s where a stellar eSign service provider like Revv comes in.

Meet Revv: with plenty of document templates crafted by real-life professionals, you no longer have to painstakingly create a unique document for each aspect of your business. Revv offers We offer templates for everything from employment agreements, contracts, and proposals to business plans that are sure to succeed. Revv also makes it We make it easy for you and your clients to sign documents.

Once you pick a template that suits your needs, you can make it yours. Revv offers features like text boxes, easily rearranging images, and charts or graphs, and simplified workflows.

After you’ve personalized your document, all you need to do is add the recipient’s information, and the document will be sent straight to their inbox for them to sign electronically. The signing process is as easy as possible, and Revv even provides timestamps so you know exactly when the document was received and signed.

Let Revv take care of the technical aspects of your document formatting so you can focus on what you really love: your business and your clients.

SOURCES:

Understanding Digital Signatures | CISA – US-Cert

How Does PKI Work [Public Key Infrastructure Guide] | Venafi

Are Electronic Signatures Legally Enforceable? | Tucker Law.

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Aditi

Aditi

Aditi is a Product Consultant at Revv, a leading document management software company that provides document templates that help run your business. All about chasing sunsets, her thoughts collide with everything SaaS and oscillates between the midnight musings of a poet and her fav authors. Can be mostly found near dogs or in a cafe with a book

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