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What is A Digital Signature?

BitForex Editor
Oct 20, 2020

The concept of digital signatures is one that has become popularized over time, especially in various sectors of the economy. This, however, brings about the question of what a digital signature is. A digital signature can be referred to as a technique that is used in validating the integrity and authenticity of software, message, among others. A digital signature is similar to a stamped seal or even a signature that is handwritten only it is of a digital kind, plus a digital signature provides better inherent security as its primary functions are to solve the problems associated with impersonation, data tampering, among others.

Another definition of digital signature explains it as a process that guarantees that a message content has not been altered or changed during transit. Digital signatures help provide the extra assurance with evidence of status, identity, as well as the origin of an electronic document, message content, or transaction, plus it can also grant informed consent by the signer. In various countries like the United States, digital signatures usage is accepted as legally binding, just like the traditional document signatures.

How Does A Digital Signature Work?

The process involved in the creation of a digital signature is one that is rather complex and can only be done by a computer. Digital signatures are centered on public-key cryptography, which is also referred to as “asymmetric cryptography.” By making use of a public key algorithm like RSA, an individual can generate two keys, a public and private one, which are mathematically linked.

Digital signatures efficiently function through the double authenticating cryptographic keys of the public key’s cryptography. The person who creates the digital signature makes use of their private key in other to encrypt signature-related data, which can only be decrypted with the public key of the signer, which is how digital signatures are authenticated.

The use of digital signature technology makes use of the condition that all parties involved must trust that the individual who creates the signature is capable of keeping their private key a secret. If by any chance, another individual is able to access the private key of the signer, then such a person would be able to create fraudulent digital signatures using the name of the private key holder.

How To Create A Digital Signature

A digital signature can easily be obtained from a reputable certificate authority like “Sectigo,” or you can choose to create one yourself. Creating a digital signature, signing software like an email program, creates a one-way hash of the electronic data to be signed, after which the hash is encrypted using the private key. Other information, including the hashing algorithm and the encrypted hash, make up the digital signature. A major reason why the hash is encrypted instead of the document or entire message content is that a hash function is capable of converting an arbitrary input into a fixed-length value, which is often reduced or lesser. Through this process, hashing is faster than signing, which in turn helps to save time.

The hashed data is unique to the value of the hash. A slight change in the data or a single character will instantly result in a contrary value. This feature allows others to authenticate the data’s integrity by using the public key of the signer to decrypt the hash.

In a situation where the decrypted hash is the same as the second computed hash of the same data, it means that the data hasn’t been altered since it was signed. However, in a situation where the two hashes don’t match, it means that the data has been changed or tampered with, or the signature was created with a private key that doesn’t match the signers public key, which will therefore result in an issue with authentication.

A digital signature is capable of been used with any message, be it encrypted or not, as it is best used to ensure that a receiver can be certain of the identity of the sender and they the message contact is intact. With digital signatures, it is difficult for a signer to deny not signing anything assuming their private key has not been accessed unknowingly or comprised. This is based on the fact that a digital signature is unique to both the signer and document, thereby standing as a binding contract for both parties involved.

It is vital to understand that digital signatures are not the same as a digital certificate. On the one hand, a digital certificate is an electronic document that has the digital signature of the issuing certificate authority, connects an identity with a public key, and also serves the purpose of verifying that a public key belongs to a particular individual.

Some modern emails today accept digital signature use, which in turn makes it simple to confirm incoming messages that are digitally signed as well as signing outgoing emails. Digital signatures are also widely used as a means of providing data integrity, authenticity, among others.

Uses Of Digital Signatures

Various industries and sectors of the economy and make use of digital signature technology to help improve document integrity. Notable among them that make use of digital signatures include;

Health care

Health care industries make use of digital signatures to improve the administrative process, hospital admissions, treatment efficiency, among others. However, health care industries that make use of digital signatures must strictly comply and adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Government

The different governments around the world make use of digital signatures for various purposes, including verifying business to government transactions, managing contracts and ratifying laws, and processing taxes. When using digital signatures, most government entities must comply with the regulations and strict laws guiding their usage.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing companies employ the use of digital signatures in other to speed up the manufacturing process as well as quality assurance, marketing, and sales, product design, among others. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) oversee the use of digital signatures in manufacturing.

 The use of digital signatures has served numerous purposes, especially the security benefit it provides. Various organizations have adopted its use, and it is safe to say that it plays a vital role in the economy.

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