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What is Digital Signature and How to Use it?

Digital Signature
Written by Shikha Mehta

Is there anything a computer can’t generate today? After shifting from letters & paper documents to e-mails & electronic documents, we’ve moved from ink signature to digital signature.

Now that documents are auto-generated using software and transferred via e-mails, any signature it requires is also electronically generated. Let’s see how.

What is a Digital Signature?

To define it, it is a type of electronic signature that verifies electronic messages or documents. It verifies the authenticity and integrity of the document by using cryptography.

How Does it Work?

When you are opt-in for a digital signature certificate (DCS), you receive a digital signature which works on the basis of public key infrastructure (PSI). This technology creates digital signatures using a set of 2 keys: a public key and private key.

Let’s see how this cryptography really works:

  • The private key you generate is only to be kept to yourself.
  • You use this private key to sign on the documents.
  • This private key will have it’s the correspondent public key.
  • The public key will verify the signature and hence the document.

How to Get a Digital Signature?

Digital signatures are supposed to be encrypted. Hence, you cannot just create them on your own. Only certain authorities in your countries can provide you with one after you submit certain documents.

Following are the documents you need to get a digital signature:

  • An application form filled properly with your signature on it
  • Your passport size photograph
  • Any government or official ID like a driver’s license, passport or national ID
  • Your contact details and permanent address

If you are a foreign national residing in another country, you may have to submit more documents. This totally depends on the country where you live.

Once they approve your application, you’ll receive your digital signature with its unique encryption. This comes with a digital signature certificate too.

What is a Digital Signature Certificate?

In order to have a valid digital signature, you need a certificate that verifies it. This certificate has your name, e-mail address, country name, pin code, the date of issue and the certifying authority’s name.

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You receive this certificate along with the digital signature from the authorities after making your application.

How to Generate a Digital Signature Certificate?

From the same site where you applied for your digital signature, you’ll also receive your certificate. This digital signature certificate is a proof that your online signature is encrypted and official. In other words, it authenticates your digital signature.

Here’s how you can generate it:

Step 1. Go to the site where you received your digital signature.

Step 2. Open the digital certification section and select who you want the certificate for – individual or organization.

Step 3. Download the form given to you and fill all the necessary details.

Step 4. Print the form and attach your photograph toit. Sign the declaration too.

Step 5. Get a copy of your ID proof and address proof attested by an officer.

Step 6. Sign a cheque or demand draft for the authorities.

Step 7. Submit all the above documents in an envelope by post.

Difference Between Digital and Electronic Signature

Scanning your signature in ink makes it an electronic or e-signature. When you receive couriers or online deliveries, you sign on a mobile phone or laptop instead of a paper today. That is an e-signature too.

However, a more protected form of this e-signature is a digital signature. It doesn’t have anything to do with your signature in writing. You’ll need a digital signature certificate to create this one.

How to Use an Online Signature Maker?

If you don’t want to spend behind getting a signature, you can get one for free too. An online signature maker is a website that helps you generate an electronic signature for free. This signature may be handwritten and scanned, or typed by you.

They may not have the same impact as a digital signature, but do help you with identification and legalizing documents. All you have to do is scan or type your signature and submit it to the site. Then, the signature is available for download which can be used anywhere.

This is how you can generate an electronic signature online for free.

How to Insert Signature on Word?

You can insert any electronic signature in Word. The new Microsoft Office Word 2016 has made the process extremely simple for you. Here’s how it works:

  • Click on “Insert”.
  • Towards the right-hand corner on the top, you’ll find a pen on paper icon. Click on the arrow next to it.
  • If you click on “Microsoft Office Signature Line”, you’ll have to enter your name, title and email address.
  • If you wish to provide an official digital signature in Word, then click on “Add Signature Services” instead. This directs you to Microsoft’s support page online. You’ll be directed to a site where you can understand more about signing your Word document.

How to Add Signature to PDF Online?

You need to use an online document signer if you want to sign PDF documents. There are many online PDF signers on the web that provide free services. If you already generated your free e-signature online, then this is the next step for you to take.

Here’s how you can add a signature to PDF online:

  • Create your account on any online document signer website.
  • Upload the document you wish to sign.
  • Provide the e-signature you want to use.
  • Click on Submit.

That’s all! Now the site will sign your PDF document for you. All you have to do is download the PDF file back into your PC. It will be the same, only with your e-signature added to it.

Can You Generate a Digital Signature for Free?

Well, the answer would be yes and no. Confused? Let me put it this way – there is no signature that certifying authorities can charge for when some private company gives the same for free.

However, you do get a digital signature for free on a temporary basis. Apps like DocuSign provide you with a 30-days free trial to create a proper digital signature. This is the only way to get a digital signature online for free.

Here’s how it works:

  • You need to submit your details on their online form. This service is only available for organizations.
  • It not only generates your e-signature online, but also gets it verified for you.
  • What you get in return is a proper digital signature with a public key infrastructure. This helps protect your documents from tampering.
  • After 30 days, you need to choose a monthly plan to continue with the service.

Importance of a Digital Signature

When you’re shifting from real to virtual, you can’t miss out on the signature part. After all, it verifies a piece of paper and makes it a document.

1. Authenticity

When it comes to ink signatures, you have to ensure it is the same everywhere. If anybody tries to copy it and fails, the document becomes fake and invalid. With digital signatures, it is even stricter as no one can have your private key. They act as proof that the documents are valid and from a trusted source. If the public key doesn’t match with the private key, it means that the data has been tampered or is not sent by the actual user.

2. Integrity

Normally, when you sign a document, it is a printed paper in which you can’t make changes. Once you sign it, it is submitted to the concerned authority or user. You can’t alter content after signing it. Similarly, after digitally signing the document, if you make any changes in the content, your signature becomes invalid. This ensures you can’t take a digital signature so lightly.

3. Security

While a good artist can copy your signature easily, an encrypted signature can neither be copied nor stolen. The private key can only be disclosed by a fool, not cracked by a hacker. There aren’t chances of your document getting tampered if you have a valid digital signature.

4. Time-Saving

Now, if you don’t have a DSC, you would have to scan your signature to send it online. Or, you would print the document, sign it with your pen and send it by post. However, if you have your DSC, signing a document on a computer wouldn’t take more than 5 seconds.

5. Eco-friendly

Again, you save on a lot of paper when you send valid documents online. Considering this, the government considers a digitally signed document and e-mails as valid proof now.

If you have an overseas client, will you send them papers by post all the time? Of course not! However, you’ll be sending an invoice that’s actually valid. That’s where you need your signature’s security and authenticity.

The digital era demands to shift from paper to software. Whether it’s money, invoice or signature, it is all on the smartphone. Feel the need to get a digital signature now?

 

About the author

Shikha Mehta

I discovered my talent in writing while I was in high school. Since then, I discovered the joy of sharing your knowledge with people around you. This is the reason why I love making my contributions to Insights of Technology. Being a certified content writer, I have been writing on several topics, science & technology being one of my favorites.

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