What are Digital Signatures?

Digital signatures are a type of electronic signature used to signify the intent of a signature through electronic means. However, not all electronic signatures utilize digital signatures. They represent a specific technology implementation of electronic signatures, which are commonly abbreviated as eSignatures.

How do digital signatures work?

To understand how digital signatures work, it’s important to note that they are unique to each signer, much like a handwritten signature. Digital signature solution providers, such as DocuSign, follow a specific protocol known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). PKI requires providers to use a mathematical algorithm to produce two long numbers or keys, one of which is public and the other private.

When a signer electronically signs a document, they use their private key, which is typically securely kept by the signer, to create the signature. The mathematical algorithm functions as a cipher, generating data that matches the signed document, known as a hash, and then encrypting that data. The resulting encrypted data is the digital signature. Additionally, the signature is marked with the time that the document was signed. If the document is changed after signing, the digital signature becomes invalid.