What is the Advanced Electronic Signature?

  • iPipeline

The Advanced Electronic Signature, also known as the Advanced Digital Signature, is one of the most secure types of electronic signature. They use encryption to verify the identity of the signer and ensure that the document has not been tampered with.

How does the Advanced Electronic Signature differ from the other electronic signature types?

In this post, we will explain:

– The advanced electronic signature.

Advantages and disadvantages of the advanced electronic signature.

Regulations around it.

– How it differs from the qualified and basic electronic signature.

The Advanced Electronic Signature

Advanced electronic signatures are typically used for high-value transactions or sensitive documents. They offer a high level of security and legal certainty for electronic transactions.

Unlike simple electronic signatures, which are based on the signer’s username and password, AES are generated using cryptographic algorithms that protect the signature from forgery.

eIDAS

An Advanced Electronic Signature must satisfy four key requirements under eIDAS, a set of regulations from the European Union. These four advanced requirements include:

1. Be linked uniquely to the signatory.

2. Be capable of identifying the signatory.

3. It must be created using only electronic signature creation data that the signatory can, with a high level of confidence, use under his sole control. 

4. It must be linked to the data signed, in such a way that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.


Electronic Signatures are governed and categorised by eIDAS Regulation, which separates them into three categories:

1. Advanced Electronic Signature

2. Qualified Electronic Signature

3. Basic Electronic Signature

Advanced Electronic Signature Advantages

The advantages of using an advanced electronic signature include:

Increased security: An advanced electronic signature is more difficult to forged than regular electronic signatures. This makes them ideal for use in high security applications such as financial transactions or legal contracts.

Higher legal authority: The advanced electronic signature holds a much higher legal certainty than regular e-signatures.

Reduced costs: Advanced electronic signatures eliminate the need for physical documents and wet ink signatures. This can save businesses time and money.

Improved efficiency: Advanced electronic signatures can be used to automate processes such as contract approvals. This can improve the speed and efficiency of business operations.

Improved Security
Increased Security

On the other hand, there are some instances where a basic or qualified electronic signature may be preferred.

Advanced Electronic Signatures Disadvantages

Complexity: The advanced requirements of eIDAS can make advanced electronic signatures more complex to create and use than regular electronic signatures. This can make them less user-friendly and increase the learning curve for new users.

Limited compatibility: Not all software applications support advanced electronic signatures. This can limit their usefulness in some business environments.

Cost: Advanced electronic signature solutions can be more expensive than regular electronic signature solutions, due to the increased security and functionality they offer.

Qualified Electronic Signature

A Qualified Electronic Signature is the only electronic signature to have the same legal status within the EU as a written or ‘wet’ signature.  

A Qualified Electronic Signature is a certain type of electronic signature that meets advanced electronic signature requirements and is backed by a qualified certificate, meaning a certificate issued by a trust service provider that is on the EU Trusted List (ETL) and certified by an EU member state. 

The trust service provider must verify the identity of the signer and vouch for the authenticity of the resulting signature. Stringent signer identification and signer certificate requirements can make qualified electronic signatures impractical for many business transactions – so is often disregarded in favour of an Advanced Electronic Signature.  

Advantages

– The highest level of compliance, equivalent to a physical or wet signature. 

Increased security: qualified electronic signatures are more difficult to forge than basic e-signatures or handwritten signatures.

Disadvantages

– Can be impractical for customer use, user experience suffers.   

– More expensive and complex to implement. 

– May not always be accepted by all parties.

– They require a higher level of security: qualified electronic signatures must be stored on a secure device, such as a smart card or USB token, which can increase costs.

They can be revoked: if a qualified electronic signature is compromised, it can be revoked by the issuing authority, which could cause delays in transactions.

Basic Electronic Signature

According to eIDAS, at the basic level, an electronic signature can be defined as: 

Data in electronic form attached to other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign. 

Taking this definition literally, a document can be signed simply by scanning a signature or ticking a box in a document opened on any device. This could include a scanned signature image or the click of an “I accept” button on a website.  

Technically, the data is in electronic form and attached to a file, but there are problems with this model which eIDAS is trying to address. 

Primarily, the document can still be tampered with, and a “signature” can easily be forged (i.e., we cannot be 100% sure who ticked the box or provided the scanned signature to confirm the terms and conditions were accepted).

To put in more formal terms – neither the integrity nor authenticity of the document are guaranteed. 

Advantages

– The simplest to implement and the simplest process for customers.

– The lowest cost solution.

– Eliminates the need for paper.

– Audit trial.

– Much less room for errors.

– Faster turnaround times than handwritten signatures.

Disadvantages

– For some, businesses may offer insufficient auditing and controls.

– Do not have the same level of security as the Advanced or Qualified.

Less secure than Advanced or Qualified.

The main differences between a qualified electronic signature and a basic electronic signature are the level of security and the cost.

We created a post on the top 10 benefits of using an electronic signature; you can see that here.

Basic, Qualified & Advanced e-Signature Difference

Qualified electronic signatures, also known as QES, are the highest level of electronic signature available. They offer the greatest legal protection and are typically used for high-value contracts or transactions.

Advanced electronic signatures, or AES, are the second highest level of e-signature and offer more protection than a basic electronic signature. AES can be used for most business purposes but is typically not required for low-value contracts.

A basic electronic signature, also known as an ELS, is the simplest and most common type of e-signature. It offers little legal protection but is perfectly adequate for many business purposes, such as signing up for a newsletter or ordering goods online.

Once a business has identified the need to digitise or integrate an E-Signature platform and highlighted a set of target initial processes, the next step is to identify the best technology for their needs.

One of the key questions all businesses will need to address on their journey to digitisation, is what level of E-Signature software they need to implement to satisfy both their business and compliance requirements. 

How To Choose The Best Type

Now that we’ve covered the three types of electronic signature, you may be thinking to yourself how to choose the right one for your business?

How To Choose The Right Electronic Signature Type For Your Business

When deciding which electronic signature type to use for your business, you should first consider the value of the contract or transaction.

If it is a high-value contract, a qualified electronic signature may be required. If it is a low-value contract, a basic electronic signature will suffice. You should also consider the legal protections that each type of electronic signature offers and decide whether they are necessary for your business.

We recommend you segment your research and analysis into three topics:

1. Analysis of the regulatory and legal context.
You need to identify the constraints and risks associated with the use of electronic signatures for your specific business case.

2. Analysis of other types of risks and opportunities: for example, your company brand or image alongside any impacts on productivity, efficiency and costs.

3. The choice of the level of electronic signature, reconciling user experience and security needs.

AlphaTrust: eSignature & Document Processing Solution

How AlphaTrust Can Help: An eIDAS Compliant Electronic Signature Solution
AlphaTrust eSignature Solution: eIDAS Compliant

There are various Electronic Signature solutions available to businesses and it can be easy to assume that all offer similar features and benefits.

However, in addition to undertaking the analysis outlined above, it pays to research the Electronic Signature market, to gain a greater understanding of the solutions available and find the right for your business needs.

AlphaTrust by iPipeline is a process digitisation and Electronic signature platform, trusted by a number of high profile international brands, including: 

From simple send-a-document for signature to your most complex workflows, AlphaTrust provides a range of options to digitise processes.

Together, we will explore both options and agree the best approach for your business and technical infrastructure.

AlphaTrust Benefits:

1. AlphaTrust slots seamlessly into your existing processes; you choose whether to integrate via API or simply access via a personalised digital dashboard.

2. Cloud Based or on Premise hosting: AlphaTrust can be hosted in the cloud, or on premise. As such AlphaTrust is flexible to work within your business infrastructure and data compliance policy.  

3. API: AlphaTrust can be integrated into your business and processes for a simple API. This allows seamless integration.

4. Advanced Webform Builder: AlphaTrust includes validation logic, reflective questioning and is completely customisable to avoid invalid/incomplete forms being returned. 

5. Compliant: Complies with e-IDAS regulations for compliance and legality. Allows a full audit trail and meets the e-idas regulations making it compliant across the UK, Europe, North America and Asia.

6. 2 Factor Authentication: AlphaTrust allows users to employ two factor authentication for enhanced security and customer trust & confidence.  

7. Full Access to All Features: No matter how many transactions or users required, we provide full access to all features on any pricing model.  

8. 20 years + FS experts: As a financial services specialist technology provider, we are experienced and fully conversant in the challenges of delivering products and services in a robust legal and regulatory framework.  

To find out more on AlphaTrust and how we can help you, check out our product site below.

We’ll also be happy to provide a free tailored demo for you with an AlphaTrust specialist giving you the chance to see the solution live and opportunity to ask questions.