Difference between Electronic Signature and Digital Signature

The terms Electronic Signature and Digital Signature are often interchangeably used, but they are in fact different beasts all together. So if you are beginning to learn about online signatures it becomes quite easy to get muddled up by all of your options. So let’s jump in and break down the differences. 

What is an Electronic Signature? 

An electronic signature is a way of representing your signature on a computerized document, for instance a delivery slip. Electronic signature can refer to various different methods of capturing a signature on a particular document or device and this includes methods like using a tablet or mobile app to capture an image of a handwritten signature. It can also include simply typing your name into a signature box. For instance, one of the most common created electronic signature is when you sign for a delivery on the courier’s digital device. 

Simply put, an Electronic Signature is equivalent of your hand written signature digitized and can also be used to confirm a particular content within a document, or the terms of a particular document. 

What is a Digital Signature?

On the other hand, Digital signatures are quite different from electronic signatures and are much more than an electronic signature. Digital signatures become essentially linked to the content of the digital document using encryption. 

If anyone digitally signs a document, he or she requires a digital certificate; a certificate which is unique to that individual. The certificate comprises of a public and private key, known as key pair. Digital signature software works by performing the following steps:

  • The software makes a hash of the document content. Hashes represent the complete content, including the images.
  • The signatories’ certificate is then utilized to encrypt the hash. This combination of encrypting and hashing creates a natural connection between the document and the signatory. Therefore, digital signing in this way helps tying the two together. 
  • The hash document is checked using the public key of the certificate to ensure that it can be decrypted. It can only be decrypted if the public key of the user matches the private key used to encrypt the document. 
  • When the signature is checked with the help of digital signing software, the original document is hashed again and both the original and signed hash is crosschecked again. And if there is a difference between them, then the signature gets invalidated. 

What is the Difference between a Digital Signature and an Electronic Signature?

                  Digital Signature             Electronic Signature
A Digital Signature is like a lock on a document and if the document changes after apply digital signature, it will show up as an invalid signature. Electronic Signatures on the other hand are open to tampering.
Digital signatures are very secure because hashes cannot be easily undone and encryption using a digital certificate is highly secure.  Electronic signature is less secure as they are not based on standards.
Digital Signatures are unique. Electronic signatures are much harder to verify.
Digital signatures can hold logs of events, displaying when each signature was applied.  When it comes to audit logs, they cannot be applied to electronic signatures. 
Digital certificates depicting the individual signatories provide the details of the person signing the document, like full name, email address and company name.   If initials of the person placing an electronic signature on a particular device, they are required to be placed separately and are not held with the signature itself, hence are more prone to abuse. 

One of the good things about digital signatures is that they become a natural part of a document lifecycle. So now you can imagine that a legal document, like a contract, really benefits from using digital signatures. Therefore, in an ocean of electronic documents, a digital signature is an intrinsic way to sign, seal and make on a promise. 

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