A Prime Example
PKI: invented in the 70s, cheap, easy, used everyday. So why are we still printing things to sign?
A few years ago I read Simon Singh’s excellent book(pictured) on codes and the long history of trying to secure and authenticate information and went on a little personal campaign on public key infrastructure (PKI). For a while there, all my emails were digitally signed. Anyone who got one could have clicked the certificate to be sure that the email really, truly did come from me and not some imposter. I could have exchanged secure, encrypted emails with all of my friends and associates who also digitally signed their emails.
Of course that never happened because no one else I knew had an email certificate. For some of my friends, their mail system told them that my message was encrypted and couldn’t be read. One of my previous employer’s email system flatly rejected any message that was digitally signed. In the absence of any friends to play with and the ongoing hassle, I gave up and just reverted back to sending plain text, unauthenticated email messages.
The reality is, for most situations in my life, no one really cares enough to snoop on me or impersonate me. There are things in my life that do need securing though, and without any action on my part, PKI has crept into my day to day existence. The deceptive simplicity of this prime number wizardry is how I can buy things and do my banking online with a high degree of confidence my credit card and bank details are kept confidential; that no one can pretend to be me and spend my money.
Beyond financial transactions, there are many other situations where being able to digitally sign things would be useful. When it comes time to sign a contract or an agreement, most people are still printing these documents to be posted and signed by all parties. Most parts of government still send me back a physical letter in response to my email because of the signature thing.
At a meeting in Auckland, many years ago now, Mike Eyal told me about the tools he could provide to solve this problem. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I’ve always looked for opportunities to apply the tools he was bringing to market. Moving with the times, Mike’s digital signature service is now hosted and I’ve finally got a chance to be working with him. The solution is called Secured Signing and is available at www.securedsigning.com. Secured Signing hides all the technical complexity and makes digitally signing documents as easy as buying something online.
If you have a process that would benefit from being able to create legally binding documents electronically, I’d love the opportunity to explain how we can help. Just hit the Ask Me Anything button (it’s the question mark in a circle at the tope of the page) and I’ll get back to you!