Digital signatures vs Electronic signatures – There’s a difference

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Not all signatures are created equal. In fact, there is quite a difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature.

This is a rather important element to note as more businesses embrace paperless and contactless technology as a result of the the COVID-19 era. It is even more important to understand the distinction between the two from a legal perspective, as local digital services provider LAWtrust explains.

The company notes that these two types of signatures may come across as being similar, however, many of their differences are centred on their level of security.

“Digital signatures will not allow any changes to the document; and to truly protect the integrity of a signed document, this measure is enforced through cryptography (encryption codes/coding), to seal the evidence and bind the identity to a transaction,” LAWtrust points out in a press release sent to Hypertext.

“Conversely, a basic electronic signature can be almost anything in law, making it vulnerable to potential cyber threats. These signatures do not embed any evidence into the signed document and as a consequence can easily be disputed,” it adds.

As such, it looks like digital signatures can be viewed as the more secure, and therefore, better of the two.

“As compared to digital signatures, electronic signatures do not protect the integrity of the document, so a signer can easily claim that the document has been tampered with after they have signed it. In essence, the digital components of signatures make a digital signature more trustworthy than a basic electronic signature,” says Maeson Maherry, CEO of LAWtrust.

Furthermore, the South African Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act) of 2002 gives legal recognition to electronic documents, as well as how electronic documents and electronic signatures are equivalent to their paper counterparts.

The Act also stipulates that any marking that is made on an electronic document with the intention to serve as a signature is legally seen as an electronic signature.

“Making use of digital technology, like digital signatures, evens the odds for every business. This means that there is a way that a small business can compete with massive businesses, because they can offer the same customer experience, and they can also offer the same channels as what the big businesses are offering,” adds Maherry.

With paperless and contactless technology only set to increase in use for businesses after the COVID-19 era, it is important to know the difference between these two types of signature.

[Image – Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.