Home Business-newBusiness Digital Signatures and PDFs: A Comprehensive Guide to Security

Digital Signatures and PDFs: A Comprehensive Guide to Security

by Yucatan Times
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Learn how to add electronic signature to PDF. We compare different security methods and give recommendations on how to improve protection.

The use of physical paperwork is decreasing as more contracts, reports, and additional agreements are presented in PDF format. Both large corporations and freelance entrepreneurs use them. But how can you confirm their authenticity? Creating or forging a digital document is easy — you don’t even need special technical knowledge. In this article, we’ll show you how to add an electronic signature to PDF, what verification methods you can use, and how to check the authenticity of a document.

Types of Electronic Signatures
When we talk about file protection, we usually mean complex cryptographic methods. But in reality, it can be much simpler. So let’s start by understanding what an electronic signature is. It can be represented by any confirmation of the file’s authenticity and the identity of the person who approved the document.

The simplest means of protection is a regular handwritten signature. To add it to a digital document, you can scan a paper page or draw a signature with a mouse or on a touch screen. It’s a very simple, convenient, presentable, and straightforward method of verifying the file’s authenticity.

A seal is a very similar tool. It is mandatory for companies in many countries, along with their constituent documents. You can add it to a file in the same way — by scanning a paper sheet or using a digital stamp. Although a signature and seal allow you to identify the person who created and approved the document, they do not guarantee security. With the appropriate technical knowledge, attackers can forge these details.

That’s why a secure digital signature is the best way to protect documents. It uses an open cryptography system, which includes two types of keys: private and public. The former ones are used to encrypt documents, and the latter ones are used to decrypt them. The use of an open infrastructure ensures that any person involved can verify the authenticity of documents but cannot change them without the appropriate keys.

Knowing what digital signature is and how it works, you can create any business documents, such as international contracts, reports to government agencies, and internal company regulations. This security method also provides the following advantages:

  • An ability to sign a PDF online using specialized web services.
  • Convenience — you don’t need to put a stamp or scan documents. A digital signature is applied in a matter of seconds. In addition, it allows you to conclude contracts without sending papers by mail or courier services.
  • Maximum security — double protection is much harder to break. In addition, some applications offer the option to enhance security with biometric means, such as fingerprint or retinal scanning.
  • Cost-effectiveness — By refusing to print paper documents, you reduce costs. When we’re talking about hundreds or thousands of sheets, this can be a strong argument in favor of digital security methods.

How Does a Digital Signature Work?
Before you use any tool, you should understand how it works. A digital signature uses the following sequence of actions:

After creating a document, you open it in an application that allows you to sign it. It can be either online or installed.

Once your document is ready, you can apply your electronic signature. This step doesn’t require technical knowledge — your signature is securely affixed to the document, ensuring that it represents your approval or agreement.

You send the signed file to the recipient, and they see your signature on the document, indicating that you have reviewed and approved the content.

The recipient can sign the file in the same way. It can be stored by both parties to the agreement or in the cloud. If the document must be modified, the consent of both parties will be required.

How to Increase the Level of Security When Using a Digital Signature?
Although a secure digital signature can greatly reduce the chances of document manipulation, it does not guarantee absolute protection. There are often loopholes that can be exploited to gain an advantage. To avoid such problems, follow these recommendations:

Store documents in secure cloud storage. They can be more reliable than local disks and portable media. Using cloud infrastructure reduces the likelihood of physical theft.

Choose strong passwords to protect PDF documents. Cryptography experts recommend using passwords of at least 8 characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

When you’re looking for how to add electronic signature to PDF, choose only trusted applications. These are not necessarily programs that are installed on your computer. Online services can also have a high level of security. What’s more, you can even use them from mobile devices.

A digital signature is the best way to protect your business PDF documents as it ensures a high level of security. It is also very convenient to use — you can sign files in seconds without printing or scanning. A digital signature allows you to quickly verify the authenticity of a document. Still, even though digital signatures are considered one of the best file protection methods, they also have their limitations. To minimize the risks involved, choose strong passwords, use trusted applications, and store documents in the cloud.

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