Overview of Digital Signatures
Why use a digital signature?
The purpose of a digital signature is the same as your handwritten signature. Instead of using pen and paper, a digital signature uses digital keys (public-key cryptology). Like the pen and paper method, a digital signature attaches the identity of the signer to the document and records a binding commitment to the document. Compared to a handwritten signature, it is considered significantly more difficult to forge a digital signature, provided the keys used to create it are kept secure.
The real value is in avoiding the paper and keeping your data electronic.
To use digital signature software requires some initial setup: you will need a signing certificate. If in your business you commonly sign documents or need to verify the authenticity of documents, then digital signatures can help you save time and paper-handling costs. The DigiStamp web site and software is designed to help you with the process and allow you to take advantage of the convenience and power of digital signatures.
What is needed to create a digital signature?
The digital signature software is provided at this web site for you to install and use. You will need to get your personal signing certificate. Creating your certificate involves creating a public-private digital key pair with a Certificate Authority. The private key is something you keep only to yourself; you create signatures with your private key. Then, you give your public key to anyone who wants to verify your signatures. The process of creating your public-private key pair is easy and quick; we can help you with the process.
Public Keys: The public key certificate creates proof of the identity of the signer by using the services of a certificate authority. A certificate authority uses a variety of processes to associate the particular public key with an individual. You give your public key to anyone who wants to verify your signature. The combination of your public key and proof of identity result in a public key certificate - also called a signer's certificate.
Private Keys: The private key is something you keep only to yourself; it is used to sign documents with the weight of your identity. The public and private keys are related mathematically; knowing the public key allows a signature to be verified but does not allow new signatures to be created. If your private key is not kept “private,” then someone could maliciously create your signature on a document without your consent. It is critical to keep your private key secret.
Resources to help you learn more
Here are some screen shots from our digital signature software, IP-Protector, to help you visualize a digital signature:
- A summary of a digital signature and its timestamp
- Adding standard commitment qualifiers to your signature
- The signature's associated public key certificate
The Frequently Asked Questions section of our web site provides a good next step for leaning how our service helps you.
A timestamp that provides a third party witness (like an electronic notary) to when you signed the document is described here.
Much has been written about digital signatures and we encourage you to perform your own research.
DigiStamp's Role in Digital Signing
DigiStamp is a trusted Timestamp Authority (TSA). This means we authenticate data as having existed at the time listed on the timestamps we issue. Trusted time is important for digital signatures because they help authenticate the signatures themselves and the data being signed. e-TimeStamp gives you strong, additional, evidence that your signatures were added at a point-in-time and that the data you signed has not been altered since your signature was applied.
Alone, a timestamp can be used for:
How will you use this trusted third-party witness to your data?
DigiStamp has a full suite of options for corporations, developers, and small businesses. We offer a web-based service and on-site hardware options, an API Toolkit, SecureTime Proxy for no authentication and desktop software including a web application. Pricing available.