What is the difference between a simple, advanced and qualified electronic signature and what are typical respective use cases?

What is the difference between a simple, advanced and qualified electronic signature and what are typical respective use cases?

Signatures play a crucial role in authentication, verification, and legal recognition of documents and agreements. In times of increasing digitization of processes, electronic signatures are ideal for signing documents with clients, partners and even within your organization during KYC processes, authentication or legally accepting an offer.

What, in an analogue process, always comes down to the same combinated use of a pen and is verified through your own handwriting is a bit more complex to emulate digitally: Some processes just require a simple approval, a ‘check’ mark, whereas other more legally binding actions have to be ensured by what is called an advanced or even qualified electronic signature. While the terms “simple,” “advanced,” and “qualified” signatures might not be universally standardized, they generally refer to different levels of authentication and security associated with digital or electronic signatures. Below is a general explanation of these terms:

1) Simple Signature:

A simple signature, also known as a basic electronic signature, is the most basic form of electronic signature. It typically involves a digital representation of a person’s handwritten signature or an “OK” button, which is applied to a document using electronic means.

Simple signatures are often used for informal agreements and documents where the primary concern is to establish the signer’s intent. They may not provide the highest level of security and authentication and might not be legally recognized in all jurisdictions for important documents, but are in most cases sufficient to prove another one’s consent.

2) Advanced Signature:

An advanced electronic signature goes beyond the basic level of authentication and offers additional security measures. It often involves more complex cryptographic techniques to ensure the integrity of the signed document and the identity of the signer. Advanced signatures may involve the use of digital certificates issued by a trusted certification authority. They are generally more secure and are more likely to be legally accepted for a wider range of documents and transactions.

The standard version of SecuChat has its own advanced signature included among its functionalities.

It can be used for the following use cases:

  • e-Signature of PDF documents with digital certificate
  • two factor user authenication
  • Guarantee of document integrity
  • Timestamping
  • Signing on Mobile

3) Qualified Signature:

A qualified electronic signature has is the highest level of electronic signature according to certain legal frameworks, such as the European Union’s eIDAS Regulation, or Switzerland’s ZertES. A qualified signature is created using a qualified electronic signature creation device and is backed by a qualified certificate issued by a qualified trust service provider, such as offered by Swisscom or LuxTrust, for example. Qualified signatures have the same legal status as handwritten signatures and are considered highly secure and reliable for legal transactions. They can be connected and integrated within SecuChat.

Qualified signatures are typically used for important and legally binding documents or transactions that require the highest level of security, authenticity, and legal recognition. These signatures are particularly relevant in the context of electronic signatures within the European Union (EU) and its member states, where they are defined and regulated by the eIDAS Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 910/2014).

Some common use cases include:

  • Legal Contracts and Agreements: Qualified signatures are suitable for signing legally binding contracts, agreements, and documents that hold significant legal and financial implications. This could include agreements related to real estate transactions, employment contracts, loan agreements, and more.
  • Financial Transactions: Transactions involving financial institutions, such as opening bank accounts, authorizing electronic fund transfers, and signing loan documents, may require the use of qualified signatures to ensure the security and authenticity of the process.
  • Government Transactions: Qualified signatures are often used for government-related transactions, such as submitting tax returns, applying for licenses, permits, or certifications, and participating in government tenders.
  • Healthcare and Medical Records: In healthcare contexts, qualified signatures can be used to sign medical records, prescriptions, and other medical documents that need to be securely signed by authorized personnel.
  • Notarizations: Qualified signatures can be used for digital notarizations, allowing notaries to electronically notarize documents, thereby enhancing the efficiency and security of the notarization process.
  • Regulated Industries: Certain industries that are subject to strict regulatory compliance, such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace, may use qualified signatures to ensure the integrity of critical documents and compliance with regulations.
  • Intellectual Property: Documents related to intellectual property rights, such as patents and copyright assignments, may require qualified signatures to establish legal ownership and authenticity.

SecuChat offers the option of qualified signatures by partners LuxTrust and Swisscom, but is basically able to integrate any signature solution that can be connected via API.