The legalities of the digital signature

1 March 2019 Editor's Choice, Information Security, Security Services & Risk Management

Digitalisation and digital transformation have seen a significant organisational shift from paper-based processes and procedures. Most organisations have adopted alternative methodologies for signing documents to ensure auditable document trails while minimising the costs associated with paper-based transactions and the risks of fraud and identity theft. However, few recognise the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature – a critical difference that can have an impact on the legalities and security of any document trail.

Rian Schoeman
Rian Schoeman

“The electronic signature is usually defined as an identifying mark that can be anything from a photograph or a scan of a signature to a squiggle made on a mobile phone or tablet,” explains Adv Rian Schoeman, head of Legal, LAWtrust, an Etion company. “It isn’t secure. In fact, the electronic signature is at risk of fraud as it is easy to copy, move and adjust. This is particularly true of poorly executed signatures that are not easily identifiable.”

To ensure deeper security, particularly with regards to highly sensitive or complex records and contracts, digital signatures are more efficient and reliable. A digital signature ensures an auditable, provable trail that can be clearly linked to a specific person and identity. Usually, a digital signature can only be used once the individual has undergone a process of identity verification which assures all parties that the right person has signed the right documentation.

“When you open a digitally signed document with a solution such as Adobe PDF reader, selecting the signature will reveal the digital certificate that outlines the individuals name, surname, and other specified identifying factors such as an email address,” says Schoeman. “These signatures are certified and legally binding.”

An electronic signature, paper-based signature, photograph or email signature may have legal weight, but proving that the person’s intention was to be bound by that signature is an involved, complex process. A digital signature does not face the same challenge. The identify verification process ensures that much of this evidence is built into the signature. While the legal process will require that the organisation prove who made the signature, in the event of a query, the process is simplified by the digital trail and embedded forensic evidence.

“To be completely assured of digital signature security, South Africa’s Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) recognises the concept of an Advanced Electronic Signature (AES),” adds Schoeman. “This is similar to a digital signature in that it is based on a digital certificate, but it requires face-to-face verification. This ensures the person receiving the document that the signer (signatory) of the document has been verified in person.”

When a signature is disputed, it is the person who queries the signature who has to prove that it is invalid. For large organisations that enter into numerous contract agreements, this is a valuable tool as it assures them of a measure of security when signing agreements.

“To provide both enterprise and its legal department with peace of mind, it is recommended that all digital contracts or agreements are signed using a digital signature,” concludes Schoeman. “This will not only alleviate unnecessary issues that could occur further down the line but will provide all parties with the right levels of assurance from the outset.”

For more information go to http://www.etion.co.za/





Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page



Further reading:

2024 Southern Africa OSPAs winners announced
Editor's Choice
The 2024 Southern Africa Outstanding Security Performance Awards (OSPAs) winners were revealed on Tuesday, June 11th, at the Securex South Africa Seminar Theatre hosted by SMART Security Solutions.

Read more...
AI and ransomware: cutting through the hype
AI & Data Analytics Information Security
It might be the great paradox of 2024: artificial intelligence (AI). Everyone is bored of hearing it, but we cannot stop talking about it. It is not going away, so we had better get used to it.

Read more...
Local manufacturing is still on the rise
Hissco Editor's Choice News & Events Security Services & Risk Management
HISSCO International, Africa's largest manufacturer of security X-ray products, has recently secured a multi-continental contract to supply over 55 baggage X-ray screening systems in 10 countries.

Read more...
NEC XON shares lessons learned from ransomware attacks
NEC XON Editor's Choice Information Security
NEC XON has handled many ransomware attacks. We've distilled key insights and listed them in this article to better equip companies and individuals for scenarios like this, which many will say are an inevitable reality in today’s environment.

Read more...
Detecting humans within vehicles without opening the doors
Flow Systems News & Events Security Services & Risk Management
Flow Systems has introduced its new product, which detects humans trying to hide within a vehicle, truck, or container. Vehicles will be searched once they have stopped before one of Flow Systems' access control boom barriers.

Read more...
Cybercriminals embracing AI
Information Security Security Services & Risk Management
Organisations of all sizes are exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI, in particular, can benefit their businesses. While they are still figuring out how best to use AI, cybercriminals have fully embraced it.

Read more...
The future of digital identity in South Africa
Editor's Choice Access Control & Identity Management
When it comes to accessing essential services, such as national medical care, grants and the ability to vote in elections to shape national policy, a valid identity document is critical.

Read more...
Do you need a virtual CIO?
Editor's Choice News & Events Infrastructure
If you have a CIO, rest assured that your competitors have noticed and will come knocking on their door sooner or later. A Virtual CIO service is a compelling solution for businesses navigating tough economic conditions.

Read more...
AI-enabled tools reducing time to value and enhancing application security
Editor's Choice
Next-generation AI tools are adding new layers of intelligent testing, audit, security, and assurance to the application development lifecycle, reducing risk, and improving time to value while augmenting the overall security posture.

Read more...
Perspectives on personal care monitoring and smart surveillance
Leaderware Editor's Choice Surveillance Smart Home Automation IoT & Automation
Dr Craig Donald believes smart surveillance offers a range of options for monitoring loved ones, but making the right choice is not always as simple as selecting the latest technology.

Read more...