What is a digital signature?
Generally speaking, a digital signature can take three different forms:
1. The ordinary electronic signature.
This is the simplest version. It concerns any form of ‘signing’ that identifies the signatory and says something about the integrity of the message. An ordinary electronic signature is, for example, a scan of a normal signature that is inserted in the document, or a ‘scribble’ made with the mouse.
2. The advanced electronic signature.
With the advanced signature, the emphasis is on the reliability of the process. The following aspects play a role in determining the degree of reliability, evidential value:
- It is uniquely linked to the signatory;
- It makes it possible to identify the signatory;
- It is created with means that the signatory can keep under his sole control; and
- It is linked in such a way to the electronic file to which it relates (‘association’), that any subsequent modification of the data can be detected.
3. The qualified electronic signature.
As with the advanced signature, the reliability of the process is also the starting point for the qualified signature. The difference is that with a qualified electronic signature a qualified certificate is used to identify the signatory. In addition, the qualified certificate is issued on a reliable means, whereby the signatory can associate his identity and the document using a private key instead of a general key. There are special bodies that issue those certificates, the so-called trust service providers.
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