Digital signature vs electronic signature, what's the difference?

Both technologies help you verify a source’s authenticity, with different applications for your business

  • Digital signatures authenticate data through cryptographic protocols
  • Electronic signatures mark a party’s intent to sign a document or contract
  • Which does your business need? It depends on what you need authenticated

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What is a digital signature?

A digital signature is a technical term for demonstrating the authenticity of a digital message from a trusted source. Digital signatures are used in a wide variety of settings, from verifying financial transactions to authenticating a webpage or a new software distribution.

A digital signature uses bits of data as a key to verify the authenticity of the message in three steps:

  1. Authentication of the sender’s identity
  2. Confirmation that the sender sent the message in question
  3. Certification that the message was received exactly as it was sent, with no alterations in transit.

Digital signatures are an important part of many online security processes. If your company is looking to get contracts or other documents signed online, however, the tool you’re looking for is electronic signature software.

Electronic signatures vs digital signatures

Unlike the more abstract, technical term of “digital signatures”, electronic signatures are much more straightforward. An electronic signature, sometimes know as an e-signature, is the same as your handwritten signature on a paper document, except electronic — a mark on an electronic contract or document you make to demonstrate your intent to agree to the terms of that document.

Electronic signatures are accessible and easy to use, and as such are much more likely to be encountered by you or your business. Already you might be using a touchscreen at your local cafe to sign your receipt for a morning cup of coffee. In a business application, electronic signatures make it easy to get your important contracts filled out and signed in a fraction of the time it would take to manage paper documents.

Incidentally, electronic signatures are among the many technologies that can utilize the authentication factors provided by digital signature technology. RightSignature includes digital authentication technology such as digital fingerprint checksums and a tamper-proof audit log to bring you the best of both worlds: the data authentication of digital signatures supporting your fast, user-friendly electronic signature app.