21 Jul 2022

Electronic Signatures vs. Digital Signatures: Here’s everything you need to know 

After serious contemplation and multiple consultations, you’ve finally decided to embark on a journey to shift your document signing online. As you go along your journey, you encounter a fork in the road – one says electronic signature, while the other one says digital signature. You wonder to yourself, “What’s the difference between them and which way should I go?”

This is a common dilemma faced by businesses that want to adopt electronic or digital signatures in their approval processes. The two terms are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same. 

But don’t worry; we’re here to help you navigate the exciting world of technology-based signing. 

What is the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures? 

The Republic Act No. 8792, or the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, defines electronic signatures as any distinctive mark, characteristic, and/or sound in (electronic) that represents a person’s identity and is attached to an electronic data message or electronic document. The intention of which is to authenticate or approve an electronic data message or electronic document. 

On the other hand, a digital signature is a subset of electronic signatures. It uses a security system to encrypt and decrypt (public-key cryptography) an electronic data message or electronic document to protect it from unauthorized access and alteration. 

To put it simply, the main difference between the two is that the primary purpose of an electronic signature is to authenticate or approve electronic data messages or electronic documents, while a digital signature is used to protect them. 

What are the other types of electronic signature? 

Besides digital signatures, electronic signatures have two other main subsets. 

  • Secure Electronic Signature: this refers to an electronic signature that uses a single or a combination of security procedures to verify the authenticity of the electronic signature and that the signed electronic data message is unaltered. 
  • Electronic Authority Signature: this refers to an electronic signature that establishes the signer’s authority as a duly authorized proxy, agent, or representative of another person. 

What are the different types of digital signatures? 

Like electronic signatures, digital signatures also have many types like ElGammal, RSA, DSA, ECDSA, and PCKS. But the most popular are: 

  • Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) – this is the most widely used digital signature for transmitting data over SSL and TLS protocols.  
  • Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) – this is commonly used for new cryptographic non-web applications, such as blockchain, in the finance industry.  

Which online signature solution should you choose? 

When choosing between electronic signatures and digital signatures, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It would depend on the requirements of your business, like the types of documents that will be signed, approval workflow, audit trail, digital certificate, security, legal compliance among others. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:

Combining the convenience of electronic signatures with security of digital signatures 

If you want the best of both electronic signature and digital signature, Twala offers an innovative solution that combines their convenience and security through blockchain.

Blockchain is a distributed database used to record trades, promises, transactions, etc. However, unlike a typical database that structures data into tables, blockchain collects and saves information in groups (known as blocks). It links the blocks together to form a blockchain. Information (e.g. hashed data of your document) stored in the blockchain are immutable, meaning that the records are permanently stored and cannot be altered.

With Twala’s solution, once an electronic document is signed, a unique numerical code called a hash is generated (like a finger print of your document). The hash is then saved on the blockchain network together with the unique digital signature of the signers. Anyone can then verify the document’s authenticity by uploading the document in Twala. The hash of the document will be recomputed and compared with the hash saved in the blockchain network. If the hashes are the same, that means your document is legitimate and was not altered.

To learn more about Twala’s blockchain-powered electronic signature platform, download our FREE e-book here.