Many people believe that a digital signature and an electronic signature are effectively the same solution. However, this is not true. Despite the fact that these two terms are often used interchangeably, in truth, they present fundamentally different tools that perform separate functions.

While both electronic and digital signatures are designed to add integrity and authenticity to documents, these options perform their role in different ways. A digital signature makes it possible for users to identify certain documents, while an electronic signature, or eSignature, demonstrates the intent of a signer to be bound legally by the terms contained in a specific document.

While these two options are not the same digital document, signing technology can be used in conjunction with electronic signatures to increase information security. In this blog, we’ll take an in-depth look at the clear differences between these two solutions to help you decide which option is best for specific applications at your firm.

Understanding differences between an electronic signature and a digital signature

The key difference between digital signatures and electronic signatures is that a digital signature is employed to seal and to identify a specific document and effectively protect it from acts of forgery. In comparison, an eSignature is utilised to make sure that the exact terms in a given document are confirmed as legally binding, providing that the document has been completed with an electronic signature.

While both digital and electronic signatures are commonly used in tandem when completing formal agreements, there are several factors which differentiate these two kinds of signature.

Reason for signature use

Among the biggest differences between the two signature types, is that the two solutions are each employed to achieve a different purpose.

For example, the main role of a digital signature is first and foremost to secure a document and efficiently verify that it has not been tampered with, forged, or altered in any way. In contrast, an eSignature is typically used to show that a signatory is both knowingly and actively entering into a legally binding contract or covenant.

Effectively, this means that while a digital signature is deployed to prove that a document is authentic, an eSignature specifically acts as evidence of an agreement to a document’s terms.
In most instances, the two signature types work simultaneously to make certain that contracts and other types of agreement are legally binding and genuine.

Common usage of signatures

As the purpose of electronic signatures and digital signatures differ, these solutions are often employed in different ways and situations from one another.

Electronic signatures, for example, are commonly included on business contracts to prove that a signer desires to agree with the terms set out by another party. In creating an eSignature, the signer effectively demonstrates their intention to enter a legally binding relationship and fulfil all obligations established for both enterprises under the agreement.

Digital document signatures, however, are more often used by dedicated trust service providers and certification authorities rather than businesses seeking to complete a deal. These entities will validate any digital signatures added and verify the authenticity of a digital document.

Creation of signatures

Electronic signatures can easily be created by those taking part in a contract using a PDF or common software applications like Word. However, a digital signature is not created by a signatory.

As touched upon, an eSignature can be created and then added to an agreement by an individual or a team signing a document, but digital signatures are instead created by algorithms and software. This technology relies on a cutting-edge method known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). This involves hardware, software and a specific set of processes that combine to make sure that data is always transferred securely through the generation of two keys, a private and a public one.

Security provided from signatures

While an eSignature sets out the intent of an individual to accept the legally binding terms of a document, digital signatures are designed to offer increased informational security.

The concept of digital signatures is that compared to other types of signing methods, they are not vulnerable to alteration and tampering. As a result, they present the most secure way to complete documents. Digital signatures are also designed to provide a comprehensive audit trail that empowers all parties involved to identify when specific alterations have occurred in a document, along with when it has been signed and who the signatories were.

Unlike digital signatures which function using data encryption to secure documents, electronic signatures are not designed to meet stringent requirements. As a result, they are a less secure option.

Start using digital signatures at your company today

At Galaxkey we have designed a digital document signing solution that is second-to-none. Our user-friendly tool features three-layer encryption that will ensure all your important agreements are completed with the utmost security. Contact our team today to get started.