What is the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature?
Despite what you may think, an electronic signature and a digital signature aren't actually the same thing. These terms are used interchangeably by businesses, as they both represent a paperless signing process, but there are some key differences between the two.
What is an electronic signature?
An electronic signature, or esignature, is a way of adding a signature in PDF or Word documents. It's often done by inserting an image of their signature drawn by hand or by typing out their name in a stylised font. This serves as an alternative to traditional signatures and seals made using ink on paper documents.
What is a digital signature?
A digital signature, on the other hand, is a similar but more secure alternative to signing documents by hand. The digital signature process ensures increased document security and signer authenticity. When adding a digital signature to PDF or Word documents, the identity of the signer is verified and the resulting signed document is appended with a digital signature certificate certifying its authenticity. Any further changes or edits made to the digitally signed document invalidates its digital signature certificate. This protects the document from tampering and also serves as a measure of non-repudiation.
- Adding images of hand-drawn signatures or names of signers in stylised font to documents.
- Attaching the identity of signers to documents by appending a digital signature certificate for authenticity and to make it tamper-proof, in addition to inserting images of hand-drawn signatures or names of signers in stylised font.
- May or may not authenticate signers at the time of signing, making it difficult to establish signer identity and prevent repudiation.
- Captures signer identity at the time of signing and cryptographically adds it to documents for easy verification via common document or PDF reader applications. Serves as a strong measure of non-repudiation.
- Offers lesser document security, as it's difficult to determine its validity even after signing.
- Offers robust document security, as changes made to the document content or properties after signing render it invalid.
- May be legally accepted, subject to local laws.
- Widely accepted across the world and is legally compliant with all major and regional digital signature laws. Digitally signed documents can be produced in court as legally binding paperwork, subject to local laws.
- Cannot always be equated to a digital signature.
- A type of electronic signature offering enhanced security and verification measures.