An electronic signature is just as it sounds, it is a way of signing documents (in the traditional sense) but done online without any sort of pen hitting paper. There are ways of doing this online anyway, such as emailing a document, printing, scanning and emailing or posting back. But, these days there is technology that can allow you to add electronic signatures to documents online so that you may get them back to the other party as quickly as possible. Here is how you add electronic signatures to documents.
What is a digital signature all about?
It is a way of adding digital information to a piece of digital text that gives it your stamp of approval, but that is done in a way that it is really hard to fake. Also, in order to present a stronger case if it goes to court, there should be some way of authenticating who authorized the signing. A digital signature does not simply have to go onto a legal document such as a contract.
It may also go on an invoice or even an email in which a person needs to receive instructions from someone in a senior position. This signature may even be used within the accounts dept whereby one authorizes payment to another and signs the transaction electronically to show who processed the payment.
Authenticity is a big deal; as the person signing and the person receiving have to be assured that the digital signature will come back to the right person. A signer does then want others using his or her signature, and the other party needs to feel assured they are getting the signature of the person they think they are getting the signature of.
A digital signature may also help to show that a piece of digital text has not been altered in any way. It may also be used to show that a piece has been altered and that a certain person has approved the alterations (a little like when you sign your initials to changes in paper contracts). Ideally it is a non-repudiation situation where each party is confident of whom the other party/person is.
Assurances are made
The content creator must add a digital signature to a piece in a way that satisfies certain assurances. These are that the digital signature has to be valid, the signer has to be trusted and known as the person in charge, the digital signature certificate must not have expired, and the authorized signatures should have a CA, which is a reputable certificate of authority.
There are 2007 Microsoft Office system programs that are able to detect such criteria within or around your digital signature and will alert the relevant parties to anything that does not seem to be correct.
Signing documents with Microsoft Office
You can print it out and do it that way, or you can add your digital signature. With 2007 Microsoft Office you are able to add a signature line into your document. It looks as if it is a signature holder on a regular contract, but the one with 2007 Microsoft Office specifies information about the signing party. The signature may be written or may be a digital image or by using an inking procedure with a tablet or pad and stylus.
The visible representation of the signature is added to the document and once that happens the document becomes a read only document so that no other parties may tamper with it.
Using 2007 Microsoft Office
By using the 2007 Microsoft Office method you are also able to see when the piece was signed as there is a date stamp attached. It is also possible to add other details that help to reassure the other party of who has really signed the document.
The 2007 Microsoft Office way also helps to provide proof of what was actually signed so that amendments cannot be made later in order to deny some part of the document. The person who did the signing may keep a copy of the read-only contract but no further amendments can be made. The other party receives the read-only contract and they too cannot amend the contract in any way once it is signed.
Cultivating trust in the system you use is one thing, but it also pays to see how well such proof will hold up in court. Even a verbal agreement is a legal contract but proving what was agreed upon in court is difficult. If the premise of your signed contract is shaky or there is a possibility of tampering then admitting it as evidence in court will be pointless.
The guest post is written by Sonia Jackson from www.cool-essays.com. She writes essays on different topics and can give you useful advice.