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Certified digital signatures

Electronic signatures make the process of creating, sending, and signing contracts and business documents easy. With the right electronic signature software, you can create a new contract or proposal within minutes, send it off to your client, and track the entire process on an analytics dashboard.

You might be wondering, if your document was sent and signed electronically, how can you be sure that the contents weren’t tampered with?

If you’re looking for a way to prove the validity of your contracts and business documents, then creating a certified digital signature can help.

What is a certified digital signature?

A certified digital signature is an electronic signature that meets the highest legal standards. It also guarantees that the contents of the document haven’t been altered after it’s been sent.

With a digital signature, you can encrypt your document by using a public and private key that only you can access. That private key is what guarantees the validity of that document, and it makes it stronger than just using an eSignature.

You will then send that document to the other party, and that person will create their own encrypted (or hashed) version using the same process. If the document is altered after both parties sign the document, the public key won’t match the encrypted version.

This process is what makes a certified digital signature so secure, ensures that the document hasn’t been altered in any way, and ensures that the certified digital signature is legally admissible in court.

You can add digital signatures to documents, PDFs, and web applications.

What are the benefits of using a certified digital signature?

Here are some of the biggest benefits of using a certified digital signature over just opting for an eSignature:

  • More secure and trustworthy: A digital signature certificate contains both a public and a private key. Once the document is signed and sent to the other recipient, a hashed version of that document is created.
  • If the document is altered at a later date, then then it won’t match the hash in the digital signature. This makes a certified digital signature more secure than just using an electronic signature.
  • Unique to the signer: Just like how a handwritten signature contains unique aspects, your certified digital signature does the same. That’s because it creates both a digital certificate with a public and a private key. The private key is securely held by the signer.
  • Easier to validate: A certified digital signature makes it easier to prove that you sent the document, and that no one else tampered with it after it’s been sent. And if you need to legally prove that a document hasn’t been altered in any way, a certified digital signature can help you do that.

Electronic signatures vs. certified digital signatures

Technically, a digital signature is a type of eSignature, but a standard electronic signature is not necessarily a certified digital signature. An electronic signature is simply the digital version of a handwritten signature.

While electronic signatures allow you to sign documents efficiently and cost-effectively, it doesn’t necessarily give you a way to validate the document or authenticate the signer.

That’s because an electronic signature can refer to any image that constitutes a signature. Whereas a digital signature relies on a framework called the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

The PKI creates both a public and a private key, which is held securely by the signer. For that reason, a certified digital signature is unique to each signer, which makes it easier to verify the document.

Once the document is signed, it is hashed, or encrypted so it’s easy to identify if the document has been changed in any way. It is also time-stamped when you sign the document.

How to create a certified digital signature with PandaDoc

It’s important to understand that your electronic signatures and documents are only as secure as the software you use. To ensure the safety of your documents, you should always choose a Certificate Authority (CA) like PandaDoc.

A CA is a third-party organization that ensures important security measures can be met every time. This ensures the validity of both signers and ensures the document is encrypted securely.

You can use PandaDoc’s software to create secure, legally binding contracts and business documents with ease. And it’s easy to get started with PandaDoc’s simple, three-step process.

You’ll start by logging into your PandaDoc account and uploading the PDF document or regular document you need to be signed. From there, you’ll navigate the menu on the right and select the field you want to use.

You’ll then drag the correct field to the place in the document that needs to be signed. If you plan to forward the document to another signer, you can add an additional field and assign it to them as well.

When you sign the document, you can either type, draw, or upload your signature. From there, you can follow the prompts to forward the signed document to your client to sign.

Getting started with PandaDoc

PandaDoc is one of the easiest, more secure ways to create certified digital signatures. And it offers a variety of options, depending on your needs and what you’re looking for in an eSignature solution.

If you aren’t a PandaDoc customer yet, there are two ways you can get started. If all you anticipate needing is electronic signatures, then you’ll definitely want to try our Free E-Sign Plan.

This completely free plan gives you and your entire team access to unlimited legally-binding electronic signatures. You can also upload and send as many documents for signing as you want.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive document management system, then you may want to try one of our other plans. You can get started using our free, 14-day trial on any of our premium plans.