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One’s signature is an essential legal asset that one possesses. The act of putting one’s signature creates quite a legal effect. The legality of a manuscript signature has slowly changed to accepting electronic signatures by amendments to various laws in each country. The electronic signature takes two forms of signature, one known as an electronic signature and the other known as a digital signature. In every country, both systems of signature exist. The choice of either is made depending on purpose, legality, and convenience.
An electronic signature is used as a general term to describe electronic authentication of one set of data (“the content”) by associating it with another set of data (“the signature”). An electronic signature can be as simple as a) putting a PIN or entering a passcode etc., or b) use of biometric technologies; or c) possession of something unique that is required to authenticate to authenticate things.
In the above, while using credit cards, to authenticate our payments, we type a PIN in a card charging machine to authenticate electronically. Similarly, employees record attendance through a biometric device in a corporate setup, which equals signing a daily attendance register recording their presence. Sometimes, you possess a magnetic card or similar one to authenticate a commercial transfer value.
A digital signature is a kind of electronic signature that uses an encryption system. Thus, the digital signature becomes a subset of electronic signature and therefore is a particular type of electronic signature. Digital signatures are based on using a mathematical function that can be created only by the creator as equivalent to putting the creator’s manuscript signature. This mathematical function called “key” and, being unique to the creator named as “private key,” is usually copied onto a device like a USB token so that it can be used to add to another code to increase the safety of use.
A digital signature uses a private key and public key combination to provide electronic authentication. This is similar to encrypted messages that worldwide military use to send coded messages to their intended destinations. The encryption may be of different types and one of the types is followed depending on convenience or standards to be adhered to.
The choice of which one to use would depend on need and circumstances. If legislation uses the word electronic signature, then it is accepting universal methods of electronic authentication. On the contrary, if the legislation uses digital signature, then it must adhere to the systems and standards prescribed for digital signature provided mostly through legislative statutes.
Each of them has its application areas depending on legality. While both are valid forms of authentication, there may be circumstances wherein only digital signature authentication is prescribed. If that be so, only digital signatures must be used in such cases.
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