The digitisation of practically every industry has brought about many clear benefits. Better customer experience, improved functionality, greater control, reduced costs, and faster speeds. However, hand in hand with all these benefits comes a host of challenges, with one of the main ones being the misuse and manipulation of digital technologies and communications, which leaves companies open to cyber breaches.
Concurrently, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns that sent South Africans home to work in an almost overnight mass exodus, saw many entities have to adapt to distributed workforces and do this rapidly. Unfortunately, the rushed nature of this working-from-home transition presented many challenges, such as how would a company be able to get people to sign critical documents.
This was compounded by the fact that only a handful of staff members have multi-function printers with a scanner function at home, and as employees could not leave their homes, documents went unsigned, which resulted in lost productivity, and workflows grinding to a halt.
This is where digital signatures came in, as these increase trust by providing an electronic, encrypted stamp of authentication on digital information such as messages. In this way, a digital signature corroborates the integrity of the message in question. Moreover, a digital signature makes sure that the information originated from the signer and was not altered in any way, which gives the identity of the business that created the digital signature. Any retrospective change made to the signed data completely invalidates the whole signature.
The use of digital signatures in today’s world, where cyber crime is on the rise, and the regulatory climate grows increasingly stringent is crucial. They guarantee end-to-end message integrity and are also able to provide authentication information about the originator of the message. In order to operate in the most effective way, a digital signature needs to be part of the application data so that it is generated at the time the message is created.
Following this, the signature is then verified once the message is received and processed. A user can opt to sign the full message or parts thereof. This is particularly useful if a particular section of the message needs to be modified before it reaches the customer. In this instance, if the whole message was signed, the entire signature would be invalidated because a small part of the original message has been modified.
Better than ink and paper
Digital signatures are created by using a form of cryptography and are the legal equivalent to an ‘ink and paper’ signature on a written document.
In fact, some say that digital signatures are actually more authentic than handwritten ones, because the signature algorithms that protect the document, make it far harder to forge a digital signature than one that is written by hand.
In this way, as long as the private key of the sender, and the corresponding key owned by the recipient are kept safe from the prying eyes of cyber crooks, everything should stay safe and secure. They provide a binding and unique electronic binding of the identity of the signer to the origin of the message, ensuring proof of the origin of the message as well as a method to verify its integrity.
Improved validation, tracking
Over and above security, digital signatures are invaluable when it comes to tracking documents. With digital signatures tracking and processing electronic documents becomes child’s play. There are several ways in which they do this. For one, they make use of electronic timestamps which help to put documents in both chronological context and order.
This saves time searching for misfiled or potentially lost documents, which enhances workflow efficiency, boosts efficiency and saves resources in terms of time and money for the company. By tracking digital signatures, an audit trail is also created, which can prove very useful during SARS filing season.
Digital signatures also come in handy when certificates need to be validated. It’s not hard to fake a digital certificate, but a signature from the certificate authority brings peace of mind that the certificate is legitimate, and the bearer has earned the qualification.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, one major plus is that digital transformation has been rapidly accelerated for companies of every size and in every sector. Businesses realise that their workforces can easily work remotely, so long as they have the right tools in place.
Altron Systems Integration works with top vendors, to offer partners a high-quality digital signature solution, so that they can rest assured that all critical documents are securely and legally signed; safely stored, and protected by the strongest cryptography.
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