Digital Document Signing

Maintaining Business Continuity in Uncertain Times with Digital Document Signing, Supported by PKI and Digital Certificates

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As businesses continue to grapple with the current healthcare crisis, maintaining business continuity has become more challenging. Organizations rapidly pivoted to working remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, and early survey results show that workplace changes may persist over the long term. A recent Gartner survey of 317 CFOs and business finance leaders found 74 percent of those surveyed expect at least 5 percent of their workforce who previously worked in company offices will become permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends.

Digitization of business processes was well underway even before the healthcare crisis emerged, as organizations sought to boost efficiency, enhance agility and keep costs in check. Today, with many physical campus locations closed, businesses face new challenges for processes that require a written signature. 

Digital Document Signing Delivers Agility and Security

Digital document signing can empower remote workers to sign documents at any time, anywhere, on any device—safely and securely. Organizations, teams and individuals in any location may add a digital signature to a document to prove the sender’s identity and authenticity. The solution is legally binding, complies with the U.S. Federal ESIGN act and never expires. It is also much faster to execute than physically signed documents in person or with a notary.

Unlike scanned signatures, which can be easily altered and do not guarantee the sender’s identity, digital document signing can also incorporate robust technologies to help minimize tampering. For example, DigiCert digital signatures employ Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) digital certificates to authenticate the identity of the signer. 

Organizations can utilize digital document signing with a variety of leading business productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office (including Microsoft Word), Adobe Acrobat, OpenOffice and more. The solution is also compatible with a wide range of document types, such as PDFs, DOCX, ODF and XML.

Business Continuity through Digital Document Signing

Maximizing Business Continuity with Digital Document Signing

The flexibility and robust protection provided by digital document signing make it ideal for organizations seeking to maintain business continuity even as more employees disperse to remote locations. For example, employee onboarding processes and offer letters have traditionally required physical signatures. If an employee could not be present for signing documents in person, a company would have to work with a notary by mail, which could be time-consuming and cumbersome.

As COVID-19 mitigation measures make it more difficult to work with notaries in person, secure document signing via the Internet is simply the most practical way to manage employee paperwork. A company could send a new employee an offer letter, and instead of visiting a notary, the employee can simply sign and return it using their preferred device, with full confidence. Social distancing can be fully maintained, and there is no need for a signer to do so much as share a pen with a notary.

In fact, digital document signing can help sustain the continuity of a variety of business processes and documents, such as:

  • financial transactions or account documents (including opening a bank account)
  • legal documents
  • invoices
  • vehicle purchase paperwork
  • housing documents
  • sensitive research information
  • insurance
  • digital diplomas and education documents

Protected by Robust Security

Even if an individual is working remotely, they can rest assured that their document signing includes powerful, integrated security. Their digital signature is an encrypted hash of the message and can only be decrypted by someone who has a copy of your public key. This ensures that the document contents have not been altered and that recipients will know the origin of the document by verifying the sender. A digital signature is also virtually impossible to forge, unlike scanned or typed signatures.

Long-term digital signatures can be created if the signed documents need to be verified months or years later. Digital signatures can also be timestamped to increase security and make Long Term Validation (LTV) possible. For dynamic, geographically dispersed organizations, the solution can also enable groups of authorized individuals, such as attorneys, to digitally sign documents. For example, to validate a nondisclosure agreement, two of three designated lawyers could digitally sign, and the document could be considered legally binding. Timestamping can help ensure that all required parties have signed the document at a specific time.

Digital Document Execution

Digital document signing provides the agility, security and flexibility that organizations need to keep moving forward in uncertain times. When backed by PKI and digital certificates to strengthen the identity of the signer, it can provide a robust solution to keep critical processes and documents moving forward. Although many of today’s new remote work models are likely to remain in place over the long term, digital document signing can help organizations position themselves meet new workplace challenges, while minimizing their impact on business continuity.

Summary:

Digital Document Signing

A recent Gartner survey of 317 CFOs and business finance leaders found 74 percent of those surveyed expect at least 5 percent of their workforce who previously worked in company offices will become permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends. Digital document signing can empower remote workers to sign documents at any time, anywhere, on any device—safely and securely. Unlike scanned signatures, which can be easily altered and do not guarantee the sender’s identity, digital document signing can also incorporate robust technologies to help minimize tampering.

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Avesta Hojjati

Avesta Hojjati is the Head of R&D at DigiCert, where he manages advanced development of cybersecurity products. Before joining DigiCert, Avesta was part of the Symantec and Yahoo security teams, as well as operating his own cybersecurity startup. Avesta focuses on applied cryptography, blockchain, post-quantum crypto, and IoT security. Avesta earned his Masters in computer science with a concentration on security from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and he’s currently completing his PhD dissertation on applications of blockchain and IoT in manufacturing.