The volume of digital content is increasing. In future, the need to verify content as authentic and to do it remotely will be greater and greater.
What is an electronic signature?
Electronic signature is an extensive concept that may be used with different meanings. At its simplest, an electronic signature can mean any electronic equivalent of a signature. Even solutions that may not be reliable can therefore be called electronic signatures. For example, a handwritten name at the end of a document alone is not reliable.
At its strongest, an electronic signature is legally binding and indisputable. Signatures created using the signature certificate in a certificate card of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency are such signatures. Forging them is extremely difficult as long as only the signatory knows the PIN code and no one else has access to the certificate card.
Why is it a good idea to use an electronic signature?
Electronic signatures make everyday life easier and offer a modern way of verifying the signatory's identity. By using an electronic signature, you can avoid additional printing, scanning and mailing of paper.
Test electronic signatures
If you already use a certificate card issued by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency and you would like to try creating an electronic signature, you can do it in the test service for electronic signatures.
How do I sign electronically?
Electronic signatures are most commonly used for signing PDF documents such as agreements. However, it is technically possible to use the certificates to sign many kinds of information.
Signatures created using the signature certificate in a certificate card of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency are free of charge. You can use the same card to sign as many documents as necessary, there is no limit to their number.
Processing an electronically signed document
An electronically signed document should be processed only electronically. The details of the signature are not retained in a printed version.
You can check the level of the electronic signature in a document in the Digital and Population Data Services Agency’s validation service for electronic signatures.
The Adobe Acrobat software also automatically checks the signatures in a document. Different applications and services may use different criteria for checking.
When handling paper documents, we have got used to thinking that copies are not authentic. However, this does not apply to digital documents. When you receive a document electronically and save it on your own device, it is an unchanged copy of the document held by the sender. Copying does not decrease the reliability of the document and it is also possible to check the authenticity of the signature in a copied document.
Levels of electronic signature in the eIDAS Regulation
There are many ways to technically implement an electronic signature. How binding or reliable the electronic signature is legally depends on how it has been implemented.
Provisions on the reliability of electronic signatures are laid down in the so-called eIDAS Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 on electronic identification and electronic trust services. The Regulation defines different levels for an electronic signature.
Technical aspects of electronic signatures
Electronic signature takes advantage of the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) method, which uses a private key and a public key. The keys are technical data stored in the chip of the certificate card.
No one apart from the holder of the certificate must have access to the private key. The certificate holder uses the private key with their personal PIN code.
The public key enables the receiving party to verify the authenticity of the signature.