Digital document signing is becoming standard protocol as businesses process thousands of electronic transactions each day. But what is it, and why take the time to use it with your documents? Is there any real benefit?
- What are the benefits of digital document signing?
- What is the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?
- Why is digital document signing so important?
- How do you electronically sign a document?
- How do you create and send a document for someone else to sign electronically?
- Are documents with digital signatures secure?
- Are digital signatures acceptable everywhere?
- Can other independent entities verify the authenticity of digital signatures?
What is digital document signing?
Digital document signing is a software-based process that places encrypted data within your document. It should not be confused with electronic signature (e.g., your name typed or drawn into the document).
A digital signature is embedded on electronic documents, emails and macros among other electronically transmitted documents. In order to create an authentic digital signature, one needs:
What is a signing certificate?
1. A signing certificate
This is a mandatory certificate that validates the legitimacy of a digital certificate proving identity. This certificate which is obtained from a certification authority is valid for a period of 12 months which are renewable.
2. A certificate authority (CA)
This is an entity that authenticates and issues digital certificates to check if they are valid and still active.
What are the benefits of digital document signing?
Digital document signing has a lot of benefits for convenience. Firstly, it is a time saver and it is energy efficient. You don’t have to meet people in person to sign a document. Also, if you receive a document that needs to be signed it unburdens you. In practice, when you digitally sign pdf documents it frees you because it prevents you from the hustle of printing the document, signing, and scanning the document before sending the document. PDF.co enables you to sign the document almost instantly and send that document.
PDF.co allows you to put your digital signature details on the document whether using a computer, tablet, or mobile device. Digital signatures significantly reduce the cost associated with the purchase of papers, employment of personnel, and other stationaries required to manage and print documents. It also helps to protect the environment as the number of trees required to produce paper significantly reduces as the use of electronic signatures gradually becomes universal.
Also, the elimination of costs relating to sending and receiving documents through the courier service occurs in most cases.
Using digital signatures as validation stamps for documents gives you the advantage of having a near inexhaustible virtual storage space on remote computer servers.
For a digital signature to guarantee security it must meet the following:
- It should be valid
- The organisation signing should be trustworthy
- Its certificate should not be outdated i.e should be current
- The signing certificate should be from a recognised certificate authority
What is the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?
These terms are often used interchangeably. Digital signatures form a subset of electronic signatures. These digital signatures provide and enhance security using encryption technology. The sensitive information such as the signature is encrypted. After verification, the sensitive information is decrypted and made available. Both digital and electronic signatures are created online and used for signing documents. Typically, electronic signatures are the standard.
Why is digital document signing so important?
The digital signature creation process involves using a mathematical algorithm to create data matching what’s in your file – this is known as the hash. The software encrypts this information, along with other data, using a number known as a private key.
The encrypted data and another number, known as the public key, together make up the digital signature, which is appended into the document.
Understanding this technical setup, when you digitally sign a PDF, or when you digitally sign a Word doc, your recipient’s software will use the public key to decrypt the document. But the software also will try to calculate a new hash. If this new hash doesn’t match the original hash from the document, it means that someone has altered the document.
Thus, digital signature details enable your recipient to verify your identity and have confidence that no tampering has occurred.
Today’s business contracts and other documents often include sensitive information and have significant legal implications. For this reason, being able to digitally sign a PDF online brings enormous protection to everyone involved.
This protection often translates to improved trust, which can mean benefits such as longer partnerships, increased sales, and faster payments. Combining these advantages with the general benefits of working electronically – for example, reduced overhead, more space, and the ability to conduct business anywhere, anytime – can give a business a serious edge in the increasingly sophisticated and competitive marketplace.
How do you electronically sign a document?
Here’s how to make an electronic signature and sign a document online using pdf.co
Step 1. Open PDF.co on your browser
Step 2. Select Sign Up or Login
It is possible to sign up simply with your Google account or use your email address.
Step 3. After signing in, Select Sign PDF on the menu bar on the upper part of the screen next to the pdf.co logo.
Step 4. You will be given various options to upload the PDF document. These options include choosing a file to upload directly from your computer or device or from Dropbox directly or even from a given URL.
Step 5. After the document is uploaded, you have more options for who will sign the document. These options include only me, me and others or others only.
Step 6. If you select only me, you are given new options and an instruction that says “Add signature and click proceed to save.” Choose the first icon under this that looks like a pencil on paper. This will open up a dialogue box that will allow you to draw your signature or to put signatures you have already made.
Step 7. After you are done with the signature, you can easily resize the signature and place it where it needs to be on the document. All that is left is to save the document and download it to send.
How do you create and send a document for someone else to sign electronically?
So you simply follow the steps above until Step 5. This time, however, you chose “others only” or “Me and others.” This will open a dialogue box which will allow you to change the document title and enter name and emails to invite people to sign the document. There is also a bonus option that allows someone to add an invitation message related to the need to sign the document.
What are Signature lines in Word and Excel documents?
A signature line is similar to the normal signature placeholder which allows the owner of the document to give instructions to the intended signer. Upon receiving the document, the recipient is notified to sign the document on the signature line.
Once a digital signature is added to a document, it cannot be modified.
Steps to creating a signature line in a word and excel document
- From the Insert tab, click on the signature line and then select Microsoft Office Signature Line.
- A signature setup dialog box will appear where you type the specific instructions for the signer. These instructions include their name, title, email address, and any other information relevant to the signer.
- The following two dialog boxes will appear:
- Allow the signer to add comments in the Sign dialog box
- Show sign date in the signature line.
Click on the box you wish the signer to fill.
How to sign in the signature line in Word and Excel
Upon receiving the word or excel document with a signature line, you are required to add a digital signature to it. First, right-click on the signature line and then select the box indicating “Sign”.
There are two ways to sign;
- You can use an image of your written signature by clicking on the “select image” box then, “select signature image” to locate your signature. Once you get the image you then click on “select” to upload your signature.
- If you are using a Tablet PC, you can handwrite your signature. Next to the X, there is a box where you use the inking feature to sign your name. Next click on “Sign” and the signature button will appear.
Are documents with digital signatures secure?
Apart from the ease of use, the addition of digital signatures on documents adds a layer of security. The affixation of a digital signature on a document automatically transforms the document into an encrypted file. Within the encryption file, the metadata stores information about the creator of the file, such as the medium of sharing, the sender’s IP address, the timing of the transaction, and more. All this stored information serves to protect the document and facilitate file validation. The receiver can easily verify the validity of the document after decryption. Any modification to the document is visible to the receiver.
This layer of protection extends to stored digitally signed documents. It doesn’t matter the duration of storage. As long as the document exists, a detailed log of all changes remains embedded in the file.
Also, the increasing use of portable devices means an increased level of vulnerability. However, the nature of encryption of digital signatures makes it immune to these threats.
Are digital signatures acceptable everywhere?
In general terms, digital signatures are globally acceptable, with a few exceptions. Several countries are continuously making new laws to facilitate the use of digital signatures, which makes documents with such signatures legal and binding. The increased global acceptability of digital signatures pushes individuals and businesses to turn to digital signature providers such as PDF.co.
The advantages of these signatures, such as security, accessibility, and universality, continuously increase the acceptance of digital signatures all around the world.
It may also interest you to know some countries explicitly require digital documents signed with digitals signatures for some specific documentation. India and Mexico are examples of such countries. In India, to complete an income tax, which is in an electronic form, a citizen must affix a digital signature to the tax forms to validate the documents. Government-approved agencies provide digital signature services to their customers.
In Mexico, on the other hand, it is a requirement for all imported and exported goods to come with a commercial electronic invoice. These invoices are crucial for the clearance of goods at all ports in the country.
All commercial invoices must contain digital signatures that conform to the acceptable minimum requirements within the country. Failure to validate digital signatures can lead to the refusal of clearance of goods.
Can other independent entities verify the authenticity of digital signatures?
High-quality digital signatures generated by reliable services such as PDF.co can withstand any strict verification process to certify the level of security and privacy of documents affixed with such signatures.