Background, uses and types

Qualified electronic signatures ensure the authenticity and integrity of digital documents

Online communication is constantly growing across all borders and frontiers. With it, the need to securely transmit digital data is also growing. Whether conducting electronic business transactions with customers and partners, communicating with authorities or using internal processes, it needs to be ensured in the case of sensitive documents and data that:

  • the dispatcher of the data is authentic and that
  • the data sent has not been changed on route through the digital world and is therefore falsified (i.e. the integrity of the data is ensured). 

With the electronic signature, these requirements can be easily, quickly and cheaply met.


What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a (structured) data set that is coupled with electronic information (e.g. documents). This data set enables the signatory or generator of the signature to be identified and authenticated.

Figuratively speaking, it is a digital data seal that was generated with a private signature key. Using the respective public certificate that is contained in the public key, it is possible to identify the holder of the signature key and to verify the integrity of the data.


Diverse range of uses

Globally active companies, facilities, institutions and major organisations are digitally streamlining their document workflows and making them almost paper-free, for example:

  • in the healthcare sector with digital medical records, laboratory test results and quality control documents
  • with eBilling, i.e. electronic invoicing according to national laws and the EU directives
  • when scanning and signing existing records in order to dispense with paper-based archives, e.g. in public administration or healthcare facilities
  • for preserving the long-term probative value of electronically signed data based on the international LTANS/ERS standard

Types of electronic signatures

The German Digital Signature Act distinguishes between the following types of signatures:

  • general / simple electronic signature
  • advanced electronic signature(AES)
  • qualified electronic signature (QES)
  • qualified electronic signature with voluntary provider accreditation

more on the different types of signatures

As the digital equivalent to conventional handwritten signatures, qualified electronic signatures provide vastly more protection against forgery.

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