16 September 1959: The Day the Signature Died - with apologies to Don McLean.
Sometimes you get asked a question that there is no right answer to. Police officers used to be trained to ask you, “Why were you speeding?”. There is no right answer to that question. Any response agrees with the implied assumption in the question, that you were speeding. They don’t bother with this verbal jousting anymore as they usually have more than enough evidence for court without worrying about an implied admission.
For me, the question I get asked that has no right answer is, “Are digital signatures really as good as traditional signatures?”. The implicit assumption in this question is that wet ink signatures still provide any sense of reliability or authenticity! The value of a particular flourish on a printed page is dependent on it being difficult, expensive, or both, to reproduce.
The Xerox 914 plain paper copier was released on 16 September 1959. That was the day the signature died. Well, started to die, to be fair. Given you can buy a full colour multi function device that will scan, copy and print for $50, it’s safe to say the day the signature died has well and truly arrived!
Digital signatures are not as good as wet ink signatures; they are better, much better. Proper, PKI based digital signatures are not able to be copied, forged or tampered with. The document content is sealed and the signature invalidated if it is changed. The identity of the person who signed the document is irrevocably tied to the document.
A PKI digital signature gives you more confidence and reliability in a document than you ever had with a paper signature. Be aware though, not all digital signatures available offer all these advantages. Even some provided by the big brands of the IT industry fall surprisingly short.
Drop me a line and I can tell you the three things your digital signature solution must deliver for you.