PDF.co and PDFlite allow you to quickly add electronic signatures to your most important paperwork, putting even your largest business goals within reach. To get the most out of your electronically signed documents and greatly heighten your security, it’s best to add a digital signature to each one. This is not the same as an electronic signature you add with your finger, touch screen, typing, image upload, or another method.

Secure digital signature transactions use PKI technology to encrypt a digital «fingerprint» into your electronically signed documents or emails, which others can use to verify the data is authentic and hasn’t been tampered with.

Getting your keys

Third-party providers – Certificate Authorities (CAs) – can help you create, use, and maintain the integrity of a secure digital signature. When you create one, the CA will use their PKI technology to generate two numbers, or keys, used in the verification process. The first number, or private key, you keep.

The second number, or public key/digital certificate, is provided to the document recipient. The recipient uses the public key to decrypt your signature and determine it is valid. If you don’t use a CA, you’ll need to create the digital certificate yourself through business-friendly tools like Microsoft Office and Adobe.

Secure digital signature transactions are also available with help from secure document signing companies that serve as or partner with CAs.

Inserting and validating signatures

Once you have your keys, the next step is to insert the secure digital signature into the document or email. Specific steps will vary based on the tool or company you use. If you receive a secure digital signature PDF, email, or another document, the software you use to open the content often will allow you to validate it. However, you might need to configure the software to do this automatically for you.

A secure signing service may offer security codes you can use with their website or app to access a document that has a digital signature for review/signing.

Legality of E-signatures

Legal recognition of electronic documents can differ between countries. In the UK, legislation for electronic signatures is part of the Electronic Communications Act 2000. It is technology-neutral legislation, meaning the legality of e-signatures are is not dependent on the used technology – an electronic signature can be any data attached to or associated with an electronic document and can serve as a method for authentication. Theoretically, it’s possible to have different signatures on legal documents, however, some applications restrict that.

Legal requirements for email signatures

There are no legal requirements for signing an email as an individual, however, there are for businesses: the Companies Act 2006 requires all business emails to contain the following information (not necessarily as an email footer, but that’s the common practice): registered name, registration number, place of registration and company address. Other kinds of contacts are not legally necessary but recommended as a best practice.

Legal requirements for electronic signatures

The legal signature requirements for digital documents (like for an electronic signature on a legal statement in pdf format) are also different considering the author – for businesses, to have the equivalent legal effect of a handwritten signature, the electronic signature needs to be a Qualified Electronic Signature – meaning that it allows unique identification of the signer, guarantees the integrity of the signed agreement, and created on a qualified electronic signature creation device – which can be a cloud-based trust service as well – that’s why you can sign legal documents online. There are several online services that can provide a legal electronic signature on documents, however, these kinds of trust services are usually not free, as they need to maintain the certificates to ensure the legal validity of electronic signatures. But with that in mind, creating electronic legal documents is an easily achievable task without any special technical knowledge.