The History of Digital Signatures

Serban - The History of Digital Signatures

The evolution of technology in recent years has meant a great transformation and modernization of instruments used for handwritten signatures. The traditional handwritten signature has evolved over the years into a digital signature and later, biometric signature, which has allowed processing banking transactions to acquiring all kinds of goods and services.



What’s the origin of the biometric signature?

The signature has its origins in ancient times, when scribes mastered writing and the ruler and king would seal decrees using a ring to authenticate the writing. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the signature became widespread in monasteries, where monks mastered calligraphy and cryptology.


How have signatures evolved over the years?

Due to evolution, the signature has also had to adapt to new media.
First came the digital or electronic signature, which requires a valid digital certificate issued by a Certification Authority accredited by a public entity; the body that is usually responsible for issuing it in Spain is the National Factory of Coins and Securities (Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre, FNMT). This entity is a transparent, user-friendly intermediary for citizens, which offers high availability.


In what media is the digital signature supported?

The digital signature is supported in two mediums:

  • Hardware: A rigid format, as is the case of Electronic ID cards.
  • Software: Certified in a file. It usually contains .p12 or .pfx extensions.


What are the disadvantages of digital signatures?

Digital signatures have numerous drawbacks, which is why they have NOT become popular:

  • Digital signature mediums are personal and non-transferable, which means they can’t be used in certain sectors, such as bank branches.
  • It’s a mechanism that’s neither widespread nor popularized among citizens, becoming very limited in its use.
  • Digital signature procedures require physical presence to guarantee identity.
  • The possibilities within e-commerce have not yet been developed, given that there are few companies that have signed agreements with a Certification Authority.


What types of signatures are there?

  • Handwritten signature: A signature generated by the issuer in their own handwriting.
  • Digital or electronic signature: It allows the signatory to be identified electronically and to digitally express their consent. This type of signature can be implemented through a username and password, signing with an e-pen, or giving consent by checking a box.
  • Digitized or biometric signature: An instrument in which the signatory’s biometric data is taken into account, such as speed, strength, etc.



In conclusion: Which type of signature is best for my company?

It’s quite common for people to consider handwritten signatures as being the most valid, but these can be questioned because they are easy to forge. The same thing goes for digital signatures, which can also be forged and used by users other than the owner. Unlike the other variants, biometric signatures have the strongest legal backing, since they’re obtained by means of biometric data linking the owner’s identity with their certificate.


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