A digital signature is a mathematical technique employed in the assertion of the integrity and authenticity of a data, record, information, message, software or digital document which can also be viewed as been the digital version of a written signature or stamped seal, intended to alleviate repudiation and impersonation in any digital communications. Assures the quality and originality of a document, confirms the identity of the signer, highlights the status or integrity of the e-document or message and can acknowledge informed consent by the signer.
How digital signatures work when implemented
Digital signatures base its working principle on the asymmetric cryptography also called public key cryptography. Using a public key algorithm, such as Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) encryption algorithm, one can generate one private and one public key that is mathematically linked. It works by depending on two mutually authenticating cryptographic keys is created, the creator uses their private key to encrypt all signature related data, and such data are then decrypted by using the signer’s public key. Technology mandates for the individual creating the name to be able to keep the private critical undisclosed. When a signer’s private key is accessed by a third party a situation whereby there is a fraudulent in the name of the individual key holder could eventually occur.
How to create a digital signature
Creating a digital signature involves using signing software such as Docu sign to create a unidirectional hash of the data to be signed. The hash so generated is then encrypted using a private key. The algorithm used for encryption, the encrypted hash together with other information is called the digital signature. The mixture is encrypted in place of the whole document because it can convert any arbitrary input value into a usually shorter fixed-length amount which saves time as hashing is much faster than signing.
It must be noted that the value of a hash is localized to the hashed document. Hence it is not advisable to alter it as the slightest change to it, even a change in a single character will result in a different value out. Other users or third parties can confirm the authenticity and integrity of the document by using the provided signer's public key to decrypt the hash. If upon decoding, the decrypted hash matches a second computed hash of the same data, one can safely assume that the data has not altered since it was signed. However, if both do not match, there is a probability that the data has been tampered with (losing its integrity in the process) or the private key used does not correspond with the public key presented by the signer for authentication.
It applies to any message kind to help the receiver assert the sender's identity and to determine if the message arrived intact encrypted or not. Leaves no room for repudiation or denying the fact of having signed a document or data, assuming an uncompromised private key is in use, as the text uniquely binds it to the signer.
It should be stated that digital signatures differ from digital certificates distinctively, as a digital certificate is an electronic document containing the numeric name of the certificate issuing authority which binds together a public key with identity and that can be used to verify that a public key belongs to a particular individual.+
Digital signature vs. electronic signature
The digital signature can be viewed as a technical term used to define cryptographic process result used in the authentication of data or information, while the electronic signature also called e-sign, is generally seen as a legal term defined legislatively as an electronic entity such as a symbol, or process, attached to a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document. It can be seen as a type of e-signature. Before an electronic signature can be taken, it must satisfy the conditions below:
There must be a way of verifying the signer’s identity;
There must be a way of asserting that the signer intended to affirm the integrity and authenticity of the document being signed; and
There must also be a way to assert that the electronic signature is associated with the signed document.
Not all electronic signatures can provide the same guarantee offered by instance, the provision of cryptographic proof that the intended signer signed a document and that the document has not been tampered with, not all electronic signatures can categorically assert this.
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