NEGOSENTRO.COM | What You Need to Know About Signing Documents Online | For those of us who are used to the traditional process of signing contracts and other documents in person and on paper with a wet signature, learning about online document signing can be overwhelming. In reality, it isn’t that complicated. If you just learn a few basic facts, you’ll be ready to write and sign documents online in no time!
Online Documents are Secure
There really isn’t much to signing documents online, especially if someone else is creating the document. E-signed documents are completely secure, and by US federal law, are as legally binding as a traditional contract.
For most e-signed documents, you will receive a completed contract in your email. In this email you will receive secure access to the documents you are supposed to sign, which will be accessed through your web browser.
The document will include instructions for how to sign, as it does vary depending on the specific security needs of the company you are working with, and the type of document being signed.
For some documents, you will need to do your best to mimic your signature on either your mousepad or your touchscreen device. For some others, you will need to type your full name, and the software will convert this into a script font, to mimic a signature.
For either of these, many e-sign software services will allow you to use whatever device you like to sign, including tablets or smartphones, as long as they have a web browser. Typically, no special software is needed on the customer side in order to e-sign documents.
Security Needs Vary
If you work in banking or certain sectors of the government, you might need the additional security of digital signing. Digital signing is a form of e-signing that uses an algorithm to guarantee both parties signing are who they say they are.
For the vast majority of businesses this level of security is just not needed. EU guidelines recommend digital signature, but US law does not generally require it in order to hold someone legally liable.
Digital signature uses a “key” called a PKI to verify identity. This generally has higher hardware requirements than simple esignatures, and often requires specialized software on the part of originator and signer.
If your company requires digital signature, you should know this starting out, and be prepared for the process to take a little longer, as security certificates take time to be approved.
In addition to digital signature, there are additional levels of security required by some companies. In certain government and banking level jobs, a form of digital signature known as qualified electronic signature, or QES is required.
QES uses the software protocols of digital signature, but also adds in the requirement for a specialized signature pad. This hardware is attached to a specific user, so your signature is guaranteed to be attached to no one but you.
The easiest analogy to understand the different security levels provided by each of these e-signature standards is to imagine a paper document.
E-signing is equivalent to a standard signature. It is binding, and unique to you. The effort to fake either of these is generally not worth it, but it could be done.
Digital signature would be like adding a fingerprint to the signature. It is even more uniquely yours, and almost impossible for a normal person to fake, so it is pretty safe to say this is definitely you.
QES is like adding a DNA sample to that signature, irrefutably guaranteeing that it was you who signed it.
In summary, e-signing a document is a simple process, affected by the specific industry in which you work, but with very straightforward protocols for all of them.