If you have had to complete any online forms recently, there is a better than fair chance that you have used an electronic signature, perhaps without even really knowing it. There are multiple standards for electronic signatures, and the term has different meanings in different contexts. To explain what that means, let’s explain the different types of electronic signatures (plus learn what digital signatures are since they’re also relevant here).
The short version is that all electronic signatures serve nearly the same purpose with the main difference being the varying degrees of security available. Each of them offers the ability to sign documents digitally. While the hardware and software requirements for each vary, the basic benefits of all are similar. Let’s get started.
When thinking of electronic signatures, most people immediately think of one of those boxes where you sign your name with a stylus or your finger. It requires a literal signature on an electronic device.
The standard eSignature can look like this, or it can eliminate the actual signing step by requiring you to type out your full name as a substitute for signing. It is even possible to click “I agree” or “I accept” in lieu of typing out your name, although this isn’t really a full signature for legal purposes (it’s actually known as a clickwrap signature, but more on that later). Once you have “signed” these forms, the form will show a generic handwriting style font with a note that it was electronically signed.
Typically, this is for forms that you would need a certain degree of security to access, either via secure log on or perhaps a secure link in an email or text (where the access to the link acts as your log-in). Of all the versions of eSignature, this is the most often used, because it doesn’t require extreme extra steps for security. With that being said, it still provides a high degree of safety and is fully trusted to protect your data in all but the highest security of environments. If you’re looking for something more secure, though, read on.
A digital signature is a more secure form of electronic signature than a simple eSignature. It utilizes an algorithm to verify that the signature was accurate to begin with and that it has not been tampered with during transit from person to person.
A digital signature is often utilized for government systems and banking where the identity verification of the person needs to be above par, and it could cause great harm if the signature were tampered with. Digital signatures are not really hackable because they are algorithmically controlled, so they are ideal for environments where someone might try to access private data, such as account information or government documents.
Advanced Electronic Signature
Advanced electronic signature (AES) is a sub-type of digital signature that adds a higher degree of complexity. It is not necessarily more secure than other forms of a digital signature as far as tamper resistance of the file itself. AES is more about ensuring the person who initiates the transaction is who they say they are. To quote and paraphrase the European Union’s EIDAS guidelines:
- it is uniquely linked to the signer;
- it is capable of identifying the signer;
- it is created using electronic signature creation data that the signer can, with a high level of confidence, use under his sole control; and
- it is linked to the data signed therewith in such a way that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.
In simple language, AES has to be connected directly to the person signing, and they should be the only person with access to it, so the data should be safe after signing. Not all of these elements are unique to AES, but they are all required at this level of security.
Qualified Electronic Signature
Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) utilizes the security features of AES but also adds a specialized personal verification device.
This device ensures that the signer is the only person who can use their access and confirms that they are the person who is signing. This is the only one to be considered as secure as a handwritten signature across all EU states, where wet signature standards are still the norm. If eSigning is the equivalent of a wet signature, and a digital signature is the equivalent of a fingerprint, then QES would be comparable to a DNA sample being attached to the document.
While understanding the different levels of eSignatures may be relevant depending on your industry, the simple fact is that all types of eSignature are secure enough for the vast majority of transactions.
In order to refute an eSigned contract in a court of law, someone would have to make a very compelling case that someone else signed on their behalf. Since all electronically signed transactions are trackable, it is relatively easy to demonstrate the chain of custody on eSigned documents. The timestamp and email thread verification of eSignature documents also provide additional security for the verification of signatures.
Unless you are in one of the very limited industries that require one of the digital signature formats, simple eSignatures will be more than adequate. All digital key security processes are very industry-specific and completely unnecessary for most eSigning needs. This makes finding an eSigning solution relatively simple.
An electronic signature will be clearly eSigned on finalized documents unless you have set the document up to have a sign on-screen option. US courts have ruled that eSigned documents are as legally binding as a wet signature. ESigned documents generally are not printed unless needed for a court filing. At the time it becomes needed for legal action, these digitally stored files are intact and current.
If legal action becomes necessary a digitally stored eSigned document is considered a more original document than a photocopied hand-signed document. The traceability of electronically signed documents also guarantees an accurate accounting of time and date stamping. You can utilize eSignatures for employment contracts, partnership agreements, or sales contracts. These eSigned documents can be accessed at any time by all parties to the agreement, as long as you are using a cloud-based eSignature software.
Electronic Signing Solutions
For the greater majority of electronic signing needs, simple eSigning is appropriate. For this type of agreement, Revv is an excellent solution. There are occasions where a full electronic signature is not required. Some items only need consent to proceed rather than a final agreement. In these situations, a simple clickwrap link will suffice, where you will just click “I accept” or “I consent.”
Creating a clickwrap step is less costly and faster than a full electronic signature, so utilize this step whenever feasible. For most, though, legally binding documents and contracts will require that you provide an electronic signature as the final step.
Regardless of which type of consent or signature you are using, Revv can easily help you set up this step. For eSigning, you will simply create a document using your existing form or one of the 400+ easy to utilize templates Revv provides. Click on the eSign tab, and send it to the signer. Revv will notify you via email when they have signed, and the document is complete.
Revv allows you to pay within the app while signing contracts, so the process is streamlined and simple. You can invoice while sending the contract for review, and the client can view their total, sign the contract, and close out the payment in one step.
Revv also allows you to store all of your completed contract files on our server so it is always accessible, allowing you to view, download and reference the document, and print as necessary. Revv also allows you to create and store your digital signature file so you can use it as needed.
Electronic signatures allow you to reduce waste and streamline your processes by going paperless for most, if not all, of your office functions. ESignatures are secure, and the courts have stated that agreements signed with electronic signatures are legally binding. This means that there is no legal reason to retain paper contracts if you are digitally completing documents and eSigning them.
ESigning is an easy to use system that resolves security and storage issues for most users. If you are ready to switch to electronic signing, Revv is the solution for you.