What Are Digital Signatures And Their Uses?

digital signatures

Digital signatures are an important security tool that may be used to verify digital messages or documents. They work by using a mathematical scheme. It permits demonstrating:

  • Who authorised or verified the data (User authentication)?
  • that since signing, the data has not changed (data integrity)

In technical terms, a digital signature is a code generated by a public-key infrastructure (PKI), which is an asymmetric two-key cryptosystem that provides high-level encryption and secrecy for information. The two primary components that enable this safe data management are the two keys‚ÄĒa private and a public one.

Digital signatures come in three different varieties:

Easy to use‚ÄĒrequires the signer to verify their identity

Advanced: bestowed by certifying bodies to demand identity confirmation from the signatory

Electronic signatures that meet certain requirements‚ÄĒperfect for high-risk situations where a security breach might have disastrous repercussions

Issues Regarding Digital Signatures and Their Maintenance

It is expected of enterprises, people, and governmental administrations to keep all correspondence, transaction records, invoices, contracts, and other supporting documentation that demonstrates their legal rights. 

When there is a disagreement over a transaction, like deterioration or attempts to alter the information on records, these could subsequently be brought up as proof.

However, because of advancements in technology, storage cannot be considered dependable for longer than ten years. 

It follows that, in theory, it will eventually be feasible to “break the code” that underlies a digital signature, meaning that it will be possible to “fake” both the signature and the document, regardless of how lengthy and complex it is now.

This reality presents a number of difficulties for the preservation of digital signatures and documents, including:

Short period of time for verification

Simple digital signatures are only recognised and displayed as valid for the duration of the certificate, which is typically one or two years. For commercial papers that must be verified for several months or years, they are therefore insufficient. 

This covers the lifespan of the involved (trusted and other) actors as well as the storage medium, keys, and certificates utilised, signing technique, document, signature, and certificate formats.

Digital certificates that have expired

Assume that a user has used their legitimate certificate to sign a document. However, the digital certificate of the signer cannot be trusted once it has expired and cannot be confirmed.

technological advancement 

A digital signature depends heavily on the technology used to create it. It is inevitable that digital signatures will evolve at the same rapid rate as technology. They will become non-functional otherwise.

It is best to verify a digital signature using the time the document was signed rather than the current time. 

Even if the latter certificate is revoked or expires, the signature is still enforceable if it was valid at the time of signing. 

However, only depending on the signer’s statements at the moment of signing is insufficient evidence. The basic signature must be improved to what is known as a long-term digital signature in order to solve the issue of signature verification after a few months or years.

The Law

Authenticity, integrity, and trust for all the saved data are the first steps towards solving the aforementioned issues. 

Most importantly, given the advancements in digital technology, it is far less expensive than updating and resigning the digital signatures.

Recitation (61) of Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 23, 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market [i.2] recognises the necessity for long-term preservation, among other things.

“In order to ensure the legal validity of electronic signatures and electronic seals over extended periods of time and to guarantee that they can be validated regardless of future technological changes, this Regulation should ensure the long-term preservation of information.”

Qualified preservation of digital signatures is generally enshrined in international and EU legislation, standards, and regulations. The following are the most widely used and reliable standards:

Trust service providers who offer long-term preservation of digital signatures or general data utilising digital signature techniques must adhere to ETSI TS 119 511 Policy and Security Requirements.

General policy requirements for trust service providers are outlined in ETSI EN 319 401, 

Electronic Signatures and Infrastructures (ESI).

Article 34 of the eIDAS Regulation: Eligible preservation service for eligible electronic signatures

Article 40: Qualified electronic seals: Validation and preservation

Time affects the applicability and strength of the cryptographic techniques that underpin digital signatures.

Applying appropriate preservation techniques that can sustain a signed object’s validity over an extended period of time is necessary. 

In order to establish and maintain trust in digital actions‚ÄĒlike digital signatures‚ÄĒtrust service providers adhere to globally recognised certifications and standards.

Principal Advantages And Purposes Of Preserving Digital Signatures

Digital signatures allow us to retain the content contained in the signature container in addition to the signature itself. The following features help to accomplish this primary objective and provide the following advantages.

Uses:

  • Evidence of general data’s existence
  • Maintaining signatures and related signed documents
  • Evidence augmentation submitted to the preservation service (helpful when transferring data across services)

Advantages:

extending the qualified electronic signature’s credibility beyond its technological validity period

Public-key cryptography, Certificate Authority validation, and Trust Service Provider validation provide security assurances.

Clarifying the sequence of events depends on global business acceptability, as more and more companies accept or even exclusively use digital signatures with timestamped dates.

As technology advances, digital preservation makes sure that records and items that have been digitised or born digitally are still able to be found, accessed, and used. This is the primary distinction between data preservation and backup. The goal of preservation is to make digital objects accessible for a long time.

Storage Types

According to official standards, there exist three primary models or types for preserving digital signatures.

services for preservation and storage. The preservation service stores data; the preservation customer requests the evidence and preserved data, which are then provided by the preservation service.

services for preservation combined with short-term storage. The client is the one who stores the data. The data is only retained momentarily by the preservation service. After it is produced, the evidence is kept for a while before being made available to the client.

services for preservation without storage. The client is the one who stores the data. To be able to give records of its operations, the preservation service merely retains evidence of its activity.

Concluding remarks

By demonstrating data integrity and user authentication with docbyte, a digital signature is a widely recognised method of document, transaction, and online operation verification. Most likely, digital signatures, or any type of electronic signature, are now a part of your company’s or organization’s everyday activities.

But when digital signatures are not properly preserved, a number of issues arise: As technology advances, signatures on out-of-date technologies become unreadable; signature certificates expire or are revoked.

The preservation of digital signatures through the use of third-party businesses with globally recognised certifications and standards is one way to address these issues. Long-term digital signatures continue to be findable, accessible, and usable in this way. Most significantly, though, is that they will be able to keep a signed object’s authenticity over time.