What is a Digital Signature & How Does it Work?

What is a digital signature? What is its purpose? What is it used for? This article will answer these questions and more! Let’s start with the definition. A digital signature service is a cryptographic function that helps protect data integrity and assert an organization’s identity. Here are some of the benefits of a digital signature. The benefits of digital signatures include Non-repudiation of origin, Verification of authenticity, Timestamping, Archiving, and more.

Non-repudiation of origin:

In a legal transaction, non-repudiation of the origin of a digital signature ensures that no one can disavow the authenticity of a message. Nonrepudiation originated as a legal concept but has now found a broad application in information security, computing, and communications. It provides a verifiable, third-party way to ensure that a message has been sent and received by its intended recipient.

Verification of authenticity:

Verification of authenticity with a digital signature is possible in various applications. This method of digital signature authentication requires a mathematical formula to be applied to a digital message. It depends on three inputs – the sequence of characters representing signed data, the public key of the signing party, and the value of the signature. It produces a yes or no answer, where yes signifies that the digital signature is authentic and associated with the public key. This can validate the authenticity of signed documents, such as emails.

Timestamping:

Timestamping is a feature that adds credibility to the digital signature. Electronic signatures are rapidly being adopted by businesses and governments worldwide and are now required to meet strict legal, compliance, and suitability requirements. The timestamp embedded in an electronic document allows the recipient to confirm whether the document was signed electronically and not altered after it was submitted. It also protects intellectual property and offers strong legal auditability. A trusted timestamp adds confidence to the digital signature application.

Archiving:

The role of digital signatures in CDX is addressed in the preamble’s Section IV.D.6. SS 3.100(5) discusses the requirement to preserve the electronic signature as part of an electronic record. Archivists could certify the validity of the previous signature and place the original in the archive. EPA will consider any comments received and may seek to amend the regulation.

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