Differences between digital signature, electronic signature, and digitized signature

Long time ago, administrative proceedings in hard copies were customary, but the digital transformation has skyrocketed and nowadays there are different options to submit documents, prepare invoices and send them or sign contracts without printing and with no wet ink signature. In this connection, the terms are easily confused, so in this post we discuss about the differences between digital signature, electronic signature, and digitized signature.

Differences between digital signature, electronic signature, and digitized signature

To know the differences between digital signature, electronic signature, and digitized signature we need to find out what makes each one unique.

What is an electronic signature? The electronic signature is defined in article 3, paragraph 10 of European Regulation 910/2014 regarding electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (also called eIDAS Regulation), which establishes:

An «electronic signature», refers to data in electronic form, which is logically associated with other data and which is used by the signatory to sign:

What is a digital signature? The digital signature consists of a set of characters that are added to the end of a document or body of a message securely associating a signatory with a document in a recorded transaction and to certify that the document has not been tampered. In this case, the signatory cannot disown the signature since there is an official certificate issued by an agency that validates the signature and the identity of the signatory. Its validity and security are based on a cryptographic system.

That being so, the digital signature has three basic elements:

  • The cryptography applied highlights that the sender is real.
  • Nonrepudiation Also, the sender of the message cannot deny that they sent it.
  • The message is shown to be unchanged since it was issued.

As a consequence of its characteristics, the digital signature provides the following advantages:

  • Time saving. Signature processes are streamlined since you can sign anytime, anywhere and from any device (computer, mobile or tablet).
  • Enhance effectiveness. The processes to sign a document are faster thus increasing user, providers, and employees satisfaction.
  • Promoting sustainability. Using the digital signature avoid unnecessary travel, therefore there is no fuel usage and reducing paper, ink, or electricity wastage at the office Thus, the environment is protected, and the sustainability of companies is enhanced.
  • More security. One of the problems posed by the physical signature of a document is that it can be easily tampered, which is not the case with the digital signature, which is therefore more secure.

What is a digitized signature? Don’t confuse digital signature with digitized signature. The digitized signature is obtained by scanning a handwritten signature. It can be included in any document, but when procedures are carried out with the Treasury or other Public Administrations, the digital signature is used. For example, you can scan your signature, save it as an image and add it to the documents you need. The digitized signature is legal, but does not offer the guarantees provided by the digital or electronic signature.

As a result, there is a difference between digital and electronic signature. The first one gives greater security since it is not possible to impersonate the identity and, in fact, it is used in procedures with social welfare, Treasury and other public institutions. Moreover, the digitized signature offers fewer guarantees since it is easier to manipulate.

How to use electronic signature

We highlight two main aspects of electronic signature:

From a user point of view:

  • The user receives an email or SMS with a link to a webpage where he can sign. The user may also visit the webpage to sign from an external link (e.g., other company).
  • Signature of the document. The signature is done entering the OTP received by SMS by clicking on a button or biometric signature. Moreover, if necessary, before signing, the user may attach documentation.

From a business point of view:

  • Signature process preparation. The first thing step is to configure the signature process by introducing the patterns to follow in order to carry out the tracking.
  • The company will send the documents to be signed by email or SMS or create a link on its website that leads to the signature page. It is important that the electronic signature solution could be integrated with your ERP or CRM through an API.
  • Finally, the process ends with the signature of the document and file management.

As you have noticed, it is important to know the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature so that you may use each one, depending on your needs.

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