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Describing Digital Signatures

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Describing Digital Signatures

By Chris LeDoux

Digital signatures are electronic signatures used to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of a document, and also possibly to insure that the original content of the message or document that has been sent is unchanged. Digital signatures are extremely convenient. They are easily transportable, cannot be imitated by an unwanted third party, and are often automatically time-stamped. The sender cannot easily deny the signature later due to the ability of digital signatures to insure that the original signed message arrived as sent. Digital signatures can be utilized with literally any type of message, whether it be encrypted or not, so the receiver can be sure of the sender's identity and that the message arrived n the same exact form as sent. Digital signatures are not to be confused with a digital certificate. A digital certificate contains the digital signature of the certificate-issuing authority so that anyone can verify that the certificate is real. If a person or company was going to send the draft of a contract to a lawyer in another town, that person would want to give that lawyer the assurance that the message was unchanged from the way it was sent and that it did indeed come from the company person allegedly sending it. The first step would be to copy-and-paste the contract, assuming it is not 100 pages long) into an e-mail note. By then utilizing unique software, the company would obtain a message hash (mathematical summary) of the contract. The company would then employ a private key that was previously obtained from a public-private key authority to encrypt the hash. The encrypted hash then becomes that company’s digital signature of the message sent. It will be different each time the company sends a message. On the receiving end, the lawyer will get the message. The lawyer, in order to insure the message is intact and from you will make a hash of the received message. Then the lawyer will utilize a public key to decrypt the message hash or summary. If the hashes match, the received message can be deemed as valid. In terms of concerns regarding digital signatures, it is important to remember that there are a wide variety of electronic signature types and not all of them have the same legal weight. A signature’s authentication, integrity, and security must be verifiable in order to be defensible in court. Most businesses require a hand-drawn, or biometric, signature or similar form of unique authentication when executing a binding contract. Today, there is easy-to-implement and easy-to-use electronic signature software, such as Right Signature that achieves this higher and legal standard of digital signatures. Those with concerns point to the shared nature of cloud hosting solutions as an automatic security risk. That several computer systems share a single storage area network may contain private data makes some people nervous. The truth of the matter is however, that the same level of risk exists on any system that is not properly designed and maintained. Cloud computing systems have matured from unreliable and unsecure prototype technologies to fully functional, well-supported trustworthy infrastructure solutions. Clear security protocols audit what all users do and partition data from one client away from that of another. It needs to be remembered and stressed that any computer system is only as good as the technicians maintaining it. For this reason, it does pay to investigate what technology is behind the electronic hosting system that a company, or lawyers for that company, might select.

References
Digital Signature. (2014). Retrieved February 25, 2014, from E-Signature website: http://www.e-signature.com/digital-signature/
Digital Signature Algorithm. (2014). Retrieved February 25, 2014, from Wikipedia website: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Digital_Signature_Algorithm.html
Digital Signature Concerns Emerge. (2014). Retrieved February 25, 2014, from Linus Insider website: http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/35926.html
Electronic Signature Software. (2014). Retrieved February 25, 2014, from E-Signature website: http://www.e-signature.com/electronic-signature-software/
What is a digital signature? (2014). Retrieved February 25, 2014, from How stuff works website: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/digital-signature.htm…...

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