Electronic signatures have become an increasingly popular and accepted way to sign legal documents, agreements, and contracts, as they offer a faster, more secure, and cost-effective way of getting work done. With the convenience of electronic signatures, signing documents no longer require printing, mailing, or scanning. However, with different types of electronic signatures now available, it is important to understand which type to use in specific scenarios to ensure compliance with the governing laws and regulations. Keep on reading to explore their features, benefits, and uses in various environments.
What are the different eSignature types?
The eIDAS Regulation defines three types of electronic signatures that vary in terms of being legally binding and the area of applications:
- Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)
- Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES)
- Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)
These specific different eSignature types, defined by eIDAS regulation, are passed by the European Union (EU). Each of these eSignature types come with a unique level of security and legal validity. Below, we will explore these eSignature types more in-depth to help you understand their differences and how they are suited to various signing processes.
Simple Electronic Signatures (SES)
Simple electronic signature types are the most commonly used eSignature type. They involve adding a digital representation of a handwritten signature, a typed name, or a unique code, which is then saved as a PDF or other file format. The image of the signature can also be created by using a stylus, finger, or mouse.
The key advantage of Simple electronic signature type is their simplicity and accessibility while meeting certain minimum requirements to be considered legally valid, such as audit-trails that are tamper-proof, legitimate intent to sign by the document signer, and more. Used in various documents such as contracts, agreements, and other legal files, they can be particularly useful for businesses that need to sign and exchange large volumes of documents quickly and efficiently.
Simple electronic signatures are an easy and commonly used method of signing documents and agreements electronically. They do, however, have their limitations.
Area of application: Documents without legal form requirements and with low liability risk.
- Offer for suppliers
- Confidentiality agreements
- Permanent rental or employment contracts
- Service contracts
Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES)
Advanced electronic signatures offer a higher level of security and authentication compared to Simple electronic signatures. They use a digital signature that is unique to the signer and is tied to the document using encryption. Advanced electronic signatures typically require the signer to provide some form of authentication, such as a password, PIN, or biometric data (such as a fingerprint or face recognition).
Advanced electronic signatures are suitable for a wide range of applications, purchase orders, legal contracts, and financial agreements, and they are also useful in cases where the authenticity of the signed document may be called into question, and where proof of signature authenticity is required.
The key benefits of Advanced electronic signatures are security and reliability as they are legally binding in most countries, and provide a higher level of assurance with an electronic seal attached to the eSignature of every signer.
Area of application: Documents without legal form requirement and with calculable liability risk.
- Rental agreements
- Purchase agreements
- Partnership agreements
- Patent, trademark or copyright contracts
- Personal insurance
Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)
Qualified electronic signatures are widely considered to be the most secure and reliable type of electronic signature. In the European Union, they are the only type of electronic signature that has the same legal status as a handwritten signature. A Qualified electronic signature is created using a valid digital certificate and is verified by a competent trust service provider (QTSP), responsible for verifying the signer's identity, issuing the digital certificate, and maintaining a high level of assurance that the signature is authentic. With QES, the highest level of security and authentication is provided for electronic signatures.
Positions that require the highest level of security and authentication can include signing legally binding documents, financial transactions, and contracts that involve sensitive or confidential information. Qualified electronic signature types are also useful in cases where the authenticity of the signed document may be called into question, and where proof of signature authenticity is required. In certain industries or for specific types of documents, QES are often required by law.
To be effective, a QES must uniquely be linked to a signer, and the signer must have sole control over the private key used to sign the document. In addition, a Qualified electronic signature must also comply with specific legal and technical requirements in the country or region where it is being used. These requirements are designed to ensure that the electronic signature is reliable, secure, and legally binding. Documents that require a high level of security and sensitivity, such as real estate agreements, intellectual property contracts, and government documents, are best suited for QES.
Area of application: Documents with legal form requirements or high liability risk.
- Consumer credit contracts
- Temporary employment or rental contracts
- Audit reports
- Consumer loan contracts
- Bank account opening documents
Which Type of eSignature Should You Use?
Electronic signature solutions provide a modern and convenient way to sign documents. However, it's important to understand the different eSignature types and their respective security and legal implications.
Whether you opt for a Simple, Advanced, or Qualified electronic signature, it's crucial to ensure that your signature meets the security and legal requirements in your area. By doing so, you can safeguard the integrity of your document, prevent fraudulent activities, and ensure that your signature is legally binding.
Securely Sign Sensitive Documents with SIGN.PLUS
Regardless of the eSignature type you use, an electronic signature must meet certain minimum requirements to be considered legally valid, such as clearly demonstrated intent, secure storage of the signed document, and prevention of tampering. If there is any indication that the document may have been altered after signing, its legality can be called into question.
SIGN.PLUS is a legally-binding electronic signature solution that provides tamper-proof audit trails, certificate of completion, authentication evidence, robust security measures, and so many other security, privacy, and compliance features. Offering some of the strongest security and privacy protections to safeguard user data, SIGN.PLUS is a safe and secure solution for different types of electronic signatures:
- SIGN.PLUS encrypts all documents at rest using 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), with each user's unique encryption key. To protect data in transit between our apps and our servers, we use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS) for data transfer, creating a secure tunnel protected by 128-bit or higher Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.
- Complies with various international electronic signature regulations, such as ESIGN, eIDAS, and ZertES, and provides an audit trail to capture every action taken on the document, including the identity of the signer, time of signing, and IP address used.
- Two-factor authentication to ensure only authorized individuals can access and sign documents.
- Is certified for all relevant certifications and compliances, including SOC 2, HIPAA, ISO 27001, GDPR, CCPA, and more.
Experience the ease, security, and convenience of eSignatures by checking out SIGN.PLUS today, and see how the online signature solution can streamline your signing process.