Do you remember the first time you signed something? How did you do it? We are pretty sure that it was with a pen on paper. Cut to 2022, a lot has changed in that regard. Electronic signatures or e-signs have emerged as a convenient way to sign even legally binding documents. While the pandemic did its bit to boost this trend, e-signatures were becoming popular even before that. In just under five years, e-signature transactions have increased from 89 million to 754 million worldwide.
Digital signatures are increasingly being used to sign sales agreements, contracts, and other essential documents. One of the main factors driving the digital or e-signature trend is its paperless nature. Other factors include data protection, convenience, cost savings, and reliable and secured encryption technology used in digital signature applications. It is clear that the usage of e-signs continues is growing. Having said that, it is also critical to understand whether electronic signatures are safe and the risks involved with the technology.
It is obvious that the technology is being embraced by corporates, startups, freelancers, and more. However, there are a few skeptics who have not yet been on board with the idea of e-signs.
Are electronic signatures safe and is there a need to tread with caution while using the technology? Read along to know more.
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Electronic signature legislation in EU and US
Before we explore whether electronic signatures are safe or not, let’s take a look at the electronic signature legislation in the European Union (EU) and the U.S.
Legislation in U.S.
The United States Electronic Signatures Act in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) regulate e-signatures in the U.S. Although the U.S. laws have not specified any security requirements, the intent to sign, record retention, and local signature attribution are mandatory.
Legislation in Europe
The Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Service (eIDAS) Regulation has defined three types of e-signatures; standard, advanced, and electronic. Each of these e-signatures comes with a different degree of security.
The best or top-rated e-signature applications comply with the regulatory standards, ensuring that your signatures are legal, secure, and accepted worldwide.
Prevention is better than cure – how are e-signatures secured?
As the need and demand for digital signs grow, the onus is upon e-sign application providers to figure out the security side of things. Here are some ways the top e-signature application vendors ensure the security of digital signs.
The audit reports capture critical data including signer details, date, time, signer activity, and interactions with the document. At times, even the location where the document was signed is recorded. If at all, there are discrepancies in the future, all the parties involved can scan through the audit reports to resolve the problem. In addition, the audit report is also admissible in court as it is a legally binding electronic record.
Certificates of completion
A certificate of completion are documents that include data such as email address, IP address, timestamp, name of the person who is signing, and date. Besides, even the signer’s consent to sign electronically is recorded. The certificate can also be held up in court and ensures that e-signs are safeguarded by the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act.
Digital signatures are more securely protected by public key infrastructure. PKI mandates that the service provider create two keys—a public key and a private key—using a mathematical algorithm.
Only the public key may be used to encrypt communications, and only the corresponding private key can be used to decrypt them, due to the relationship between the public and private keys. A user cannot determine the private key even after knowing the public key. A digital signature is created as a result of encrypted data. The time the paper was signed is also recorded by PKI. The signature is not valid if changes are made to the document after it has been signed.
Verification of signer identity
E-signature applications use a plethora of authentication methods to verify a signer’s identity. Some of these include:
- Phone OTP
- Signing password
- Email link authentication
- Government-issued ID
- Account-based authentication
While there are tangible advantages, there is some degree of risk involved if you or your company handle electronic data and signatures improperly.
Financial loss, harm to the company’s reputation and shareholder value, loss of intellectual property, disruption of business operations, and increased liability are all possible risks if you delete or lose electronic data by mistake or if they are not encrypted adequately.
E-signature important statistics
- The global e-signature application market is likely to surpass $ 9.7 million by the end of 2023 
- Businesses who have turned to digital signatures have managed to reduce a whopping 85% of their document handling expenses 
- Companies that are reducing their dependency on paper have minimized their processing errors by 90%
Current trends suggest that the adoption of e-signature applications and tools will continue to increase consistently. Besides, as more and more companies decide to shun tedious processes which involve a lot of paperwork, e-signature applications will gain traction. Although there are a few risks involved with this technology, on the whole, there are stringent regulations and security standards in place.
So are electronic signatures safe? The simple answer is yes. If you opt for reliable, top-rated, and trusted e-signature applications such as DocuSign, Eversign, PandaDoc, and more, your documents are in safe hands. Besides, as technology advances, we are likely to see even more security measures in place.
Do you use digital signatures to sign documents? We would love to know which tools you use and your overall experience while using these applications.
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Feature Image Source: Photo by Kelly Sikkemaon Unsplash
Image 1 Source: Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash
 (2015) “e-Signature growth and transaction projection from 2012 to 2017” Statista [online] Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/618202/worldwide-esignature-transaction-annually/ [accessed July 2022]
 (2022) “E-Signature Market To Reach $12,721.5 Million by 2030” Prescient & Strategic Intelligence [online] Available from: https://www.psmarketresearch.com/press-release/e-signature-market [accessed July 2022]
 (2015) “82 Percent of Companies Still Spending Billions on Paper” Corp! [online] Available from: https://www.corpmagazine.com/industry/technology/82-percent-companies-still-spending-billions-paper/ [accessed July 2022]