Once people started to rely on digital document exchange, the need for a digital means to confirm and verify authenticity of the documents arose. A digital signature is an equivalent for digital documents, such as PDFs, of a wet-ink signature on paper documents. From a technology standpoint, a digital signature is a message encrypted by the signer using a secret private key, which associates itself with the document and the signer. This message can then be decrypted by anyone else with a matching public key for verification.
A digital signature is a versatile method to sign documents in electronic form, which is used to provide the following:
In many jurisdictions, digital signatures not only verify that the document is true and not altered, but also have legal authority, i.e., making documents such as contracts legally binding—in the same way as documents with traditional pen-on-paper signatures. For such circumstances, the EU passed the EU Directive for Electronic Signatures in 1999, and the United States passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 2000. Digital signatures are now widely accepted and used in government, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, financial services, and other industries.
Digital signatures are very reliable. They are based on modern encryption algorithms. Digital signatures are easy to verify at the recipient’s side thanks to encryption algorithms with public keys. They are very reliable and resistant to forgery or fraudulent actions thanks to Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) standardized services widely adopted to generate, distribute, and control public keys. In fact, digital signatures can be considered as even more reliable than wet-ink ones. Here are just a few reasons why:
It’s really simple. Just open the PDF document in ABBYY FineReader PDF 15. Everything that is needed to validate the signature is inside the document, and the software will do it for you immediately. If the signature is valid, and there were no changes made to the document since it had been signed, FineReader PDF will show you a green “Valid” sign in the “Digital Signatures” pane:
If the signature isn’t valid, or the document has been edited, the status of the signature will be “Invalid”, and you shouldn’t trust that document:
You can view properties of a signature using a command from the right-click menu, or by double-clicking on it in the “Digital Signatures” pane.
To be able to sign documents digitally, you first must prove your identity and get a Certificate and a pair of the unique electronic keys from one of the organizations called Certificate Authorities (CA). The keys are:
The Certificate is an electronic document that identifies you as a holder of a specific public key, which therefore enables you to be identified as a signer when someone gets a document with a digital signature made by you.
If you are an employee in an organization, it might be that you already have the certificate or can get it through your organization. If you aren’t sure, it is recommended that you check with the IT-service of your organization, and, if needed, they could also help you with installing it properly.
With FineReader PDF 15, you can put digital signatures on PDF documents using the certificates installed in Windows Certificate store—then they become available for signing documents. You can also use PIN-protected certificates usually stored on special cards (smartcards).
FineReader PDF supports working with digital signatures based on modern, secure encryption algorithms SHA256, SHA384, SHA512, and MD5. If you have an old certificate based on SHA1 encryption, FineReader PDF will anyway use a secure SHA256 to apply a digital signature to your document.
The software also supports applying digital signatures using PIN-protected digital certificates (smartcards), which are typically stored on special cards read with a device connected to a computer.
A wide range of digital certificates are supported for validation and applying digital signatures, including long-term validation (LTV), such as DocuSign, and others. They are specially designed to provide the possibility to successfully validate signatures for many years ahead.
Learn more about digital signatures
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