Digital Signatures: The Technology Meant to Protect Against Signature Forgery
A Story Told
The widely publicized anti doping case involving Essendon Football Club, a professional football club plying its trade in upper tier of Australian Football League, took an interesting turn. Nima Alavi, a compounding pharmacist was initially accused of producing banned peptides and intentionally labeling them World Anti-Doping Authority compliant, as revealed in a self confessionary letter submitted on his behalf to Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority (ASADA). Nima Alavi disclosed that this letter was never drafted or signed by him and that it was a case of signature forgery for which renowned biochemist, Stephen Danks, is responsible.
The case proceeded, with the investigation spanning more than 18 months before Stephen Danks was found guilty and banned by ASADA. Although the culprit was exposed, it could not be denied that the progression could have been much easier had the authentication process been accented with a much more secured methodology. And, this is just one example of a case that involves forgery of hand written signatures.
There have been plenty of hand written signature forgery cases and experts have long argued that a more secured method of authenticating documents needs to be exercised.
Welcome to the world of digital signatures.
Digital signature is a type of electronic signature in which the identity credentials of the signer (a digital fingerprint) is embedded within the document. This helps to validate the signing authority in cases where the documents are legally contested. Furthermore, digital signatures also provide additional information like the time of signature to provide further evidence for validation practices.
Documents can be signed online through other simple variations of electronic signature but the practice is not completely secured.
When a signer is exercising an electronic signature solution to approve a document, with the exception of digital signatures, the information related to the signing authority is not stored within the document. Instead, it is stored on the vendor’s server. This means that whenever you need an evidence to present in the court in case of a legal dispute, you will have to contact your vendor. Now assume some real-life scenarios:
· Assume that your vendor goes out of business. Now what will you do?
· Assume that another company acquires the business setup of your existing vendor and in the process update the database, leading to loss of previously stored data. Now what will you do?
· Assume that your vendor decided to change the technology on offer. Now what will you do?
You can struggle to corroborate the legal status of the electronically signed document.
This is where digital signatures can help you.
The identity credentials of the signer is embedded within the digitally signed document as opposed to the vendor’s server when you are e-signing it.
Document tampering is another reason why you should use digital signature instead of a simple electronic signature. When a document is electronically signed, without the acquisition of a digital fingerprint, it can still be tampered with. However, once the document is secured through a digital signature, any tampering can be easily identified, adding to the security convenience.
With digital signature offering additional layer of security to the process of signing documents online, there is certainly a case in the making for its deployment on a large scale. Others have already adopted the practice. Are you ready to embrace it?