What is the difference between an electronic signature and a digital certificate?

The terms electronic signature and digital certificate are sometimes misunderstood as if they were the same thing, yet they are different. This post tells you the difference between an electronic signature and a digital certificate and how they are used.

What is a digital certificate?

A digital certificate is a document that identifies a natural person on the Internet-based on the authentication of an official agency (the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre – FNMT-, for example) and is required to carry out procedures with public administrations. The digital certificate can be used to carry out procedures with the National Health Service or the Tax Agency, such as filing taxes, consulting fines or submitting claims. The electronic ID card is a digital certificate.

The FNMT certificate is described as a digital certificate. It is requested on the FNMT website, and the process is almost entirely online, although it is necessary to go to an authorised office to verify your identity in person. The certificate is downloaded and installed in any browser, and it can be used to carry out any procedure with the public administration.

Here are the steps to request this type of certificate:

  • Check that your browser is compatible and correctly configured. The FNMT website has a tool that automatically performs the check.
  • Apply for the certificate. Fill in a form on the FNMT website with your ID number, surname(s) and email address. You will then receive an email with the application number
  • Visit an office to prove your identity. The next step is to go to a public body to prove your identity in person.
  • Download the digital certificate. Once you have accredited your identity, you will receive an email with a code to download and install the certificate. Bear in mind that you have a deadline to download the certificate and that you must make a backup copy to install it on other computers if necessary.

Once you have the digital certificate installed in your browser, each time you visit an official website that requests it to carry out a procedure, for example, at the National Health Service to check your work life, a pop-up window will appear so that you can choose the certificate to use and you will only have to click on it to access the procedure.

Using e-ID certificates is more complicated since when you receive your ID card at the Police Office, you will have to activate the chip and the certificates and then you will have to get a compatible reader and use an also compatible application. It is important to keep an eye on their validity period to renew them.

What is an electronic signature?

The difference between an electronic signature and a digital certificate is that the former is a legal concept defined in Article 3 of the eIDAS Regulation, which establishes three types of electronic signature:

10) 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:

11) «Advanced electronic signature»means an electronic signature that meets the requirements referred to in Article 26;

12) «Qualified electronic signature» is an advanced electronic signature that is created by a qualified signature creation device and which is based on a qualified certificate for electronic;

Then, what is difference between an electronic signature and a digital certificate?

The electronic signature is easier to use than the digital certificate or the e-ID; you have to follow the steps below:

  • First, register on the Click & Sign website and get your username and password.
  • On the dashboard, you will have access to a menu, and under the section set template, you will define the parameters of the signature process: signatories, type of signature ( one-click signature, one-time password (OTP) or biometric signature, reminders, notifications, etc.).
  • Then add the document you want to sign and send it.
  • The signatories will receive an email or SMS with a link to access the document to be signed and sign it depending on the type of signature you have chosen.
  • You can check the status of each sending and view who has yet to sign or when the signature process is finished in the sending list.
  • Once the signature process is completed, evidence will be generated with all the data of the signature: signed documents, email addresses used, telephone numbers, IPs, date and time of each signature and sending, etc.

At Click & Sign, in addition, we are giving away 28 free credits so that you can try out the tool and, after that, you will only pay per use

Therefore, the difference between an electronic signature and a digital certificate is that the latter is a form of identification on the Internet. The former is a way of signing documents online in a secure manner and in compliance with the applicable regulations. Get here your esignature and prove this great tool.

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