In today’s evolving digital world, many of us rely on electronic signatures for everything from signing contracts to submitting official documents. But, are these signatures truly safe and trustworthy? And, are they legally binding?
First, we’ll explore what electronic signatures are, and answer the above questions. Then, we’ll delve into the technology behind electronic signatures and examine the technical aspects of that underpin their protective measures.
Whether you’re a business owner looking to streamline your signing process or simply someone who wants to better understand the world of signature technology, you’re in the right place to gain a full understanding of the technology that powers e-signing.
Read on to find out whether or not electronic signatures are safe.
What Are Electronic Signatures?
An electronic signature, also known as an eSignature, is any kind of signature that is created, captured or stored electronically. It can include a scanned image of a handwritten signature, a click-to-sign signature, a typed name or a symbol such as a company seal.
Essentially, an eSignature is any online mark or action that indicates a person’s intent to sign a document or agreement — electronic signature is a broad term that encompasses several types of online signatures and can be used in a variety of contexts, from online contracts to email correspondence.
It’s important to note that e-signatures vary from handwritten signatures — a handwritten signature, also known as a wet signature, is a physical mark made by a person or a stamp on a piece of paper, while an e-signature is an electronic representation of a person or business’ signature or mark.
Of course there are some similarities — electronic and handwritten signatures can be used to sign the same types of documents, and you can create a custom, handwritten signature to use in the e-signing process.
Are eSignatures Legally Binding?
Yes, e-signatures are legally binding in most countries and jurisdictions, including the United States, the European Union and many countries and jurisdictions. The legality of e-signatures is governed by various laws and regulations, such as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act) in the U.S. and the eIDAS Regulation in the European Union. These laws recognize the validity and enforceability of electronic signatures, provided that certain requirements are met.
Some key advantages of e-signatures are their trackability and protection. When using e-signature technology with your documents, each signature is typically accompanied by a detailed log that records the entire signing process, including who signed the document, when they did so and from what location; this makes it easier to track and verify the signatures, providing greater transparency and accountability.
Overall, e-signatures are a legally recognized and widely accepted alternative to traditional paper-based signatures and an acknowledgment that business has traveled online. Their trackability and security features make them a safe and reliable option for individuals and businesses looking to sign and manage documents remotely.
Is My eSignature Safe?
eSignatures are safe when the appropriate protective measures are in place.
Electronic signing technology has advanced significantly in recent years, with many providers incorporating robust, sophisticated features to ensure the integrity and authenticity of electronic signatures.
In addition to audit trails, which were mentioned above, blockchain technology and certificates of completion make e-signing safety possible — blockchain technology documents events in the signing process while certificates of acceptance serve as proof of the signer’s identity and intent to sign the document in a way that cannot be altered.
Moreover, e-signatures can be used in compliance with HIPAA, which regulates the confidentiality of patient records and medical information for healthcare providers.
The Technical Components of Electronic Signatures
With e-signatures, there are a variety of technologies at play that make them possible. From blockchain to audit trails to certificates of acceptance, each component plays a critical role in ensuring the security and authenticity of e-signatures.
Here, we’ll explore the technology behind e-signatures in more detail:
- How blockchain technology creates tamper-proof records
- How audit trails provide transparency
- How certificates of acceptance validate the signer’s identity and intent.
By understanding the technology that supports e-signatures, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the trust, speed and reliability that electronic signature providers offer.
1. Blockchain Technology
E-Signatures are backed by blockchain technology, which is a decentralized digital ledger that records transactions transparently and safely; this helps prevent fraud, false signatures and other types of document tampering.
When an eSignature is recorded on a blockchain, it creates a permanent, locked record of the signature event that can be easily verified by anyone with access to the blockchain network. Hence, they can never be changed or tampered with.
The blockchain network is a decentralized network of computers that uses blockchain technology to maintain a shared database of transactions. It is designed to be safe, tamper-proof and peer-to-peer (without any central authority controlling it). The network is used to create decentralized applications and can be used for various applications.
In e-signing, blockchain provides a transparent and permanent record of the signature event, which helps to increase trust and confidence in the validity of the signature; this is especially helpful when multiple parties need to sign a document, as blockchain provides a safe and efficient way to track and manage the signing process.
2. Audit Trails
E-Signatures use audit trails, which are records that document the entire signing process. These records include who signed the document, when they signed it and what actions they took. Audit trails can be safeguarded and used to verify the authenticity and integrity of the signed document.
This differs from a handwritten signature in several ways. With a handwritten signature, it may be difficult or impossible to verify who signed the document or when they signed it, especially if the document was signed a long time ago or if it has been altered or tampered with. Additionally, wet signatures cannot provide the same level of detail or transparency about the signing process as an audit trail can.
Audit trails can track various events within a document’s lifecycle:
- Document creation date and signature status
- Signer’s names and document observers (if applicable)
- The signing method used
- Timestamps and attachments
- Passcode authentication for guest signers
By using eSignatures backed by audit trails, organizations ensure that their documents are signed in a safe and transparent manner. This is particularly important in industries that require strict compliance with regulations or that deal with sensitive or confidential information. The use of audit trails can also provide greater efficiency in the signing process, as signers can quickly and easily review the signing history of a document and confirm that it has been signed correctly.
3. Certificates of Completion
E-signatures are powered by certificates of completion, which are electronic records that provide evidence of the signing event — they’re like a virtual receipt for an electronic signature. These certificates can include information such as the identity of the signer, the date and time of the signing, and any additional details about the signature process. They can also include a token from a trusted third-party provider, which can help to verify the authenticity and integrity of the signed document.
In contrast, with handwritten signatures, it’s very difficult to prove that the document was signed legally, or who signed it, especially if the document was signed a long time ago or if there are questions about its authenticity. Furthermore, handwritten signatures may not provide the same level of detail or transparency about the signing process as a certificate of completion can.
By using eSignatures backed by certificates of completion, you can ensure that your documents are signed in a way that is legally binding and can be easily verified; this can be particularly important in industries that require strict compliance with regulations or that deal with sensitive or confidential information. Certificates of completion can also provide greater efficiency in the signing process, as signers can quickly and easily access and review the certificate to confirm that the document has been signed correctly.
Conclusion: E-Signatures Are Safer Than Handwritten Signatures
Is an electronic signature safe? Yes. Not only have digital signatures become an extremely popular alternative to traditional paper-based signatures — they’re also much safer. Plus, e-signatures have the added benefits of convenience, speed and efficiency.
With the introduction of blockchain technology, certificates of completion and audit trails, e-signatures have become even more tamper-proof, offering unparalleled levels of protection and trust. Overall, it is clear that signing electronically is the way of the future — and far superior to paper-based signatures (this can’t be emphasized enough).
jSign, in particular, leverages technology to ensure that signatures are safely and permanently recorded and tracked, making them a suitable option for individuals and businesses alike. To safely (and conveniently) create an electronic signature, start your free, 14-day trial of jSign today.