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Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature: What Is the Difference? — QIT

Jun 5, 2023 8 min read
"Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature: What Is the Difference? — QIT"

Although the terms “electronic signatures” and “digital signatures” are frequently used interchangeably, there are several key differences and specific reasons to choose one over the other.

Companies have used a wide range of electronic communication solutions for a long time to validate digital identities or secure network connections. The digital and electronic signatures have taken the lead in this sector in terms of corporate change. Growing worries about Authentication, Validation, Trust, Recognition, Security, and Reliability of digital transactions are affecting enterprise digital transitions.

Since the beginning of time, personal signatures have been crucial to establishing a person’s identification. Almost everyone uses them daily to sign vital documents.

Therefore, it is vital to define these terms owing to user misunderstanding that results from their frequent mistaken belief that an electronic signature and a digital signature are interchangeable, despite their increasing technological literacy.

Let’s get started by analyzing the differences.

Electronic Signature Definition

electronic signature

A person’s intent to sign a document, the validity of the signer’s identification, and the consistency of the document after the signature were all confirmed by an electronic signature, which is a piece of data that relates to other electronic data. Thus, it is possible to define an electronic signature as a legal notion whose purpose is to certify the signatory’s intent.

It is the recording of the steps an individual takes to demonstrate intent during an electronic transaction. The phrase “electronic signature” describes a number of various techniques for obtaining a signature on paper or another object. To digitize a handwritten signature, you may also enter your name into a signature box using a tablet or smartphone app. Take delivery slips, for instance.

With the use of technology, electronic signatures may be linked to the identity of the signer and the moment the signature was made. A technique, electronic symbol, or sound that is connected to a message, contract, or document which can be used to get consent or approval on electronic papers or forms is known as an electronic signature. In almost every personal or professional transaction, electronic signatures have replaced handwritten ones.

An electronic signature must have these two things:

  • Signer’s intent to sign, i.e., the document is captured.
  • Document or record is correct.

It justifies the signer identity using standard electronic authentication means like email, corporate ID, etc. Multi-factor authentication can also be utilized to increase security as necessary. The effective e-signature solutions use a safe method of audit trails together with the completed document to show proof of signing.

Digital Signature Definition

digital signature mechanism

Although used to sign documents, digital signatures are a sort of electronic signature but they differ from electronic signatures in a few key aspects.

It’s useful to take a step back and consider the security issues around paper-based documents and procedures before getting into the specifics. When dealing with paper-based documentation, people and organizations most frequently have these worries:

  • Is the signatory to the paper really who they say they are?  How can I determine whether the signature is genuine and not a forgery, to put it another way?
  • How can I validate that the document’s contents haven’t been changed—or, from the recipient’s perspective, how can I assure this?

According to the National Notary Association, notaries have been around since ancient Egypt and have worked to solve these very real problems. Notaries today are crucial in persuading the parties to a transaction that a document is authentic and trustworthy.  

Electronic document processing is impacted by the same problems, as would be expected. Digital signatures, which are effectively the digital counterpart of adding a notarized signature to your papers, were created to assist address this issue. A Certificate Authority (CA), a dependable third party, is in charge of confirming your identity while using digital signatures.

Since Certificate Authorities associate your identity with a PKI-based digital certificate, you may use your certificate to create digital signatures both locally with a token and remotely using any of the cloud-based signing services. 

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When you employ a digital signature, cryptography joins the data being signed and your digital certificate, which is given after verifying the user’s identity. This results in a unique, recognizable “fingerprint”. Like a real fingerprint, the cryptographic components that make up your digitally signed document cannot be altered or reproduced. Since of this, digital signatures are more potent in the eyes of the law since they are secure and compliant. Using digital signatures, your documents may be “packaged,” “sealed,” or otherwise altered digitally.

In conclusion, a well-planned and safe cryptographic process enables digital signatures to guarantee the following:

  • The document is authentic and originates from a reputable source.
  • Identity has been confirmed by a trusted organization (the CA).
  • Since the document was digitally signed, no changes have been made since doing so would make the signature invalid.

Electronic Signature vs. Digital Signature: Key Differences

digital signature vs electronic signature

Although they are technically distinct, the words “digital signature” and “electronic signature” are sometimes used interchangeably. The difference between digital signature and electronic signature is frequently unclear. Notably, digital signatures are tied to a real signature, whereas electronic signatures encompass all variations of a signature.

The key differences between electronic and digital signature are:

  • While an electronic signature is used to validate a document, a digital signature is used to protect a document.
  • There are two types of digital signatures based on document processing platforms: Microsoft and Adobe pdf. On the other hand, there are four different kinds of electronic signatures: qualified signature, advanced electronic signature, click-to-sign signature, and basic electronic signature.
  • The certifying authority is in charge of controlling digital signatures. To validate an electronic signature, certain national laws and regulations are applied.
  • The government or non-government certification provider authority may also approve a digital signature. The specified vendors, the author of the document, or the participating parties authorize electronic signatures.
  • Secure the document is the main goal of utilizing a digital signature. Verifying the document is the fundamental goal of employing an electronic signature.
  • A digital signature is more safe since it has more security components. Because an electronic signature contains fewer security measures, using one is less safe.
  • The term “electronic signature” refers to much more than just electronic data. A public-key based cryptographic signature is known as a digital signature.
  • Since the information is linked to the signature itself, a digital signature may be used to obtain the signatory’s details. An electronic signature does not contain the signatory’s information, although it is possible to save it independently. A timestamp is a tool that allows the validity of a set of data to be verified. This shows that the data was present at a particular time and hasn’t changed since then. The electronic signature’s integrity is ensured by the timestamp.
  • The audit logs are often kept in a digital signature, which makes it simple to trace when or whether modifications are made to the document. Applying audit logs with an electronic signature is challenging.
  • Because they are more secure and impervious to fraud, digital signatures are more trustworthy. Electronic signatures are less trustworthy since they are less secure and might be altered.
  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), a highly advanced kind of standardization, is used to create digital signatures. The electronic signature’s keying technique is not particularly sophisticated.
  • By utilizing cryptographic encryption techniques, digital signatures uphold the standards and increase security. Because they are not based on standards, electronic signatures are less secure.
  • The electronic signature leverages the signer’s email, phone PIN, and other undefined authentication methods. A digital signature, on the other hand, uses digital ID authentication techniques that are certificate-based.
  • While an electronic signature is used to validate a digital document, a digital signature assures the security of the digital document.

How Digital Signatures Help Businesses

How Digital Signatures Help Businesses

Basic and Intuitive

The simplicity and use of a digital signature are its main advantages. Once the signer has obtained a digital signature, applying it to any document and sending it securely become quite simple. Once the receiver has signed the contract, the procedure is finished. It is that simple and may be done from the convenience of your workplace.


There are all different kinds of enterprises operating in various places. All companies, large and small, must interact with partners, suppliers, and consumers who are spread across many towns, cities, and countries. A digital signature makes online authentication easier, which makes it a far more practical alternative to the time- and resource-intensive paper-based printed and scanned form.

Speedy turnaround

Digital signature convenience inherently implies a quicker turn-around time. A digital signature authentication occurs with the click of a button as opposed to involving many participants who will handle printing, signing, scanning, and mailing one side of the business transaction and the same set of actions on the other side. Naturally, it provides organizations the essential flexibility, competitive edge, and aids in enhancing stakeholder trust.

High level of security

E-business is common in today’s IoT (Internet of Things) era, and everyone chooses to share documents using electronic media rather than traditional paper documents. In these situations, digital signatures are crucial. They include the sender’s signature in addition to tracable details on who signed the document, when it was signed, and where. These built-in characteristics of the digital signature impose higher security standards than a typical paper document.

Lowest cost

A digital signature is very affordable since it eliminates all of the associated costs of manual printing, signing, and scanning. Additionally, it saves paper! All of this adds up to revenue for the company over the course of time.

To conclude

Today, the majority of organizations are embracing the concept of paperless workplaces. They have defined a digital signature and listed its benefits in order to do it. They authenticate important documents and create legally binding agreements using digital signatures.

Digital signatures are the best option for organizations to ensure increased workflow efficiency and customer satisfaction since they offer the highest level of security, simplicity, and affordability.