For as long as signing a document has been one of the main ways of making an agreement official, people have signed documents in ink. It’s understandable if many of us might have presumed that would always be the case.
Due to the advent of the Internet, e-commerce, and even electronic filing of motions with courts, ink signatures may steaily become a relic of the past. It’s increasingly common for electronic versions of documents to be signed with electronic signatures instead of ink.
That’s not to say everyone has been quick to embrace the innovation. Some have been reluctant to do so because they fear that electronic signatures, or esignatures, are less secure than signatures in hand-written ink.
This is an understandable concern, but it may be an unfounded one. It’s already clear that e-signatures are at least as safe as ink.
There’s also strong evidence to suggest e-signatures may be even more secure. The following points will explain how.
The Nature of E-signatures
Many who don’t trust esignatures mistakenly believe that an e-signature is nothing more than a visual replica of a traditional autograph. They believe the only difference is than an e-signature is created on a computer instead of with a pen.
That’s not the case. To qualify as an authentic e-signature, it must feature certain unique digital properties. Essentially, an e-signature contains a digital “fingerprint” that’s unique to each user.
Thus, to forge an e-signature, prospective forgers would have to have access to their target’s computer, as well as their signing certificate password.
Obtaining this access is typically much more difficult than copying an ink signature. All someone needs to forge a traditional signature is the ability to write in a way that resembles the real thing. This is a skill that can be learned.
It’s also not particularly difficult to find someone who already has the skill. Printing tools may also enable someone to forge a traditional signature with relative ease. These are among the chief reasons many believe e-signatures are actually a safer option.
Creating an Audit Trail
Embedded in a genuine esignature is a sort of “transaction history” that tracks when the esignature was left on a document, as well as who left it. This creates an audit trail that can be useful when a dispute with regard to a signature’s authenticity arises.
For example, let’s say you entered into a business agreement with a client or partner. All the parties signed the papers, and you believe you’re ready to proceed.
However, for some reason, the players might have decided they no longer wish to move forward with the agreement. If they’re the dishonest type, they might attempt to get out of the agreement by claiming their signature is a forgery.
If a traditional ink signature sealed the deal on the paperwork, unless someone witnessed a signatory placing his name on the document, it would be difficult to prove they’re lying.
That’s not the case when it’s an e-signature. The history encoded in the esignature will show who left it and when.
These are two of the substantial reasons people who understand the true nature of e-signatures have chosen to depend on them in increasing numbers. Along with offering greater security, e-signatures can help a business save money, conserve resources, and operate much more efficiently than it would if it was still necessary to send and receive physical copies of documents to be signed.