e-signed documents

10 Common Threats to Your E-Signed Documents

In this globalized world, almost everything is connected through the Internet. Well, this is a good thing as it creates a lot of opportunities for people. The modern technology has changed the way people used to work. For example, now one can work remotely for his/her clients living in another country. Isn’t it great? 

Talking about one such development, that is online documents. This makes the business processes much easier and faster than before. The modern working practices involve signing such documents online. In general, e-signed documents enable people to create and sign a contract without any issue. It helps people by eliminating the lengthy offline documentation process.  

Also Read: Top 10 Electronic Signature Myths and Facts

Top 10 threats to e-signed documents

Most of the businesses are now implementing e-signature following some benefits like cost-effective and better user experience. However, it also gives chances for cybercriminals, and now anyone can defraud you with this. There is no doubt that electronic signatures and e-signed documents are quite effective when it comes to maintaining integrity. But at the same time, there are some threats to e-signed documents. 

It’s good to go for electronic signature, but while implementing, you should consider the security concerns for e-signed documents. If you have a better understanding of the threats associated with the e-signed documents, you can easily deal with them. Besides, your digital signature will stand up in different legal matters. 

So, let’s get ahead and know about some common threats associated with e-signed documents that you should keep in your mind.

1. You all have signed the contract, but the court rejected it

You create a business contract with different parties, and they sign it digitally. But later you faced some disputes and took the case to court. However, now, the court rejects the contract. Why? Because the software that you have used for signing in is not compliant with rules and regulations of electronic signature laws. Ultimately, you lose the case. 

So, if you are using any e-signature software, make sure that it is compliant with the electronic signature laws. For example, in the USA, the software should be compliant with UETA and ESIGN Act. In Europe, it needs to be compliant with the EU Directive 1999/93/EC. And in India, it must be compliant with the Information Technology Act. If you don’t find any supported legislation, then don’t use the software. Or else you may face a lot of security issues for e-signed documents. 

There are different laws and acts in every country for the validation of electronic signatures. Also read about the Information Technology Act, 2000 – electronic signature law in India.

2. The contract has changed, and information is missing

Most of the reputed online signing software platforms are running hashing technology. In detail, it makes a hash of the content which builds a fingerprint of the material. It creates its DNA for the file. Generally, they use the hash forms while doing the signing. The reason behind this is if something alters, like changes the number, the hash will alter the number. 

Not all the electronic signature software will let you know about the changes. Only professional electronic signature software can notify you about this through regular auditing. Besides, you need to make sure that the electronic signature vendor integrates all the major security precautions. 

Check the level of encryption that the vendor offers when your documents are in cloud storage. Besides, use standard algorithms and signing process so that the sign can be verified through the different solution. Don’t use SHA1 or MD5 hashing algorithms as these are outdated. So, be careful about it. 

3. The signatory is different 

In general, when one signs a document online, then the signature employs the digital certificates. Talking more about a digital certificate, it represents a person or a company digitally. It has two parts, one is the private key, and another one is a public key. 

The private key is generally used to encrypt the document’s hash. However, anyone can access the public key. Besides, it can provide all the details of the company or the person related to that particular certificate. But it is illegal to see other’s documents without any consent. 

So, to prevent this, make sure your e-signed documents come with tamper-evident technology. Such technology can alert you when someone tries to access and alter your documents. Besides, set a PIN for your certificate. Only you can use the certificate with the PIN. 

Don’t get confused between Digital Signatures and Electronic Signatures. Read our previous article on Digital Signature vs Electronic Signature, understand the difference between them.

4. The electronic signature is fake 

Sometimes hackers can use the electronic signature for a false signature while signing a contract. You can be a victim of fraud if you are not using software which has features to make the process secure. Make sure that the electronic signature software offers features like security auditing, encryptions, digital certificates, and more. If all such things are missing in your software, then you can put the business at higher risk by signing a fraudulent contract. 

5. The e-signed documents have been stolen 

There is no doubt that modern technology makes working online a lot easier. With e-signing, you can sign a vital document online with just a few clicks. But this also brings different threats to e-signed documents. 

One of such risks is the document stored on a server can be accessed easily. One can simply hack your document and change the entire content. So, always remember to encrypt your document to prevent hackers from accessing the documents. 

6. An unknown person accesses the documents

One of the most important factors that you need to consider during the process is to make sure that the process involves the right person. Besides, it ensures that the e-signed documents can only be accessed by that particular person.

For this, you can employ user authentication process. For example, some e-signature vendors require that one should prove his/her identity by entering an SMS PIN or answering a personal question. This way, you can prevent others from accessing your electronically signed documents online. 

There is something that you should always keep in your mind while using e-signature software. If the software works on proprietary technology, then you might not understand how the technology works. It may not also offer maximum protection to your e-signature. That’s why always use the software in which technology is governed by international standard. For example, a software certified by ISO- International Organization of Standardization (NIST). 

Still thinking about the adoption of an electronic signature? Check out these top reasons to adopt electronic signature for your business.

7. Another person or the middle man stole the contract 

One of the significant security issues for e-signed documents is MITM- Man in the Middle. This is a common online threat where a person takes the information which is present on the server. The rate of MITM attacks is now increasing. Moreover, OWASP – Open Web Application Security Project places such attack in the list of top 10 web-based attack threats. 

Your online document can carry some of your sensitive or personal information. For example, pricing, identity, property details, and more. All such information can be stolen through a MITM attack. So, how you can prevent such threats? 

For this, you need to make sure that the entire process of e-signing is secure. Make sure you are using an HTTPS connection. In detail, HTTPS-Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a secure communication channel. 

Besides, to prevent MITM or MITB – Man in the Browser issues, make sure that the service provider signs the digital document in its initial stage. The reason behind this is it will lock the integrity of the documents. Besides, you can make sure that the service providers send the document, and there is no middle person in this process. 

This will assure the users that the digital document is genuine and safe to sign. Furthermore, always remember to save a copy of before and after signing a document on your system. So that if something wrong happens, you can use that as proof. 

8. The image of e-signature is stolen 

Almost all the e-signatures come with an image of the real signature or a mark that one generally uses. This is a major commodity as one can use it on a document, signing as the real owner of the signature. How to prevent such a threat? Don’t store your signature images or marks on a server. Hackers can easily steal your data from a server which is not properly secured.

An e-signature lets the users make a mark on the document to show their consent or approval. Well, in the paper world, it is quite difficult to copy the signature. But in the digital world, one can easily copy the signature or mark and paste it on another document. One can’t even find a single difference in that. In the court, the judge can’t comment just by looking at the image of the signature. 

Some software can offer PKI-based e-signature. You will get a unique Digital Identity, known as X.509 Certificate after verification of the real identity. After that, you can use the certificate for e-signed documents. When you sign a document cryptographically, it locks your digital identity, and one can know who has signed the documents. Certificate Authority issues such certificates that is a trusted organization. So, get your unique Digital Identity now and enjoy a safe and secure online document signing process. 

While working with electronic signatures, it is commendable to understand how electronic signature works. Here is a quick guide to the electronic signature workflow.

9. The signing software vulnerabilities

Most of the e-signing software can be infected by malware, including yours too. The reason behind this is the software you are using may contain some vulnerabilities. You might be thinking that what are these all about? Well, that means there are some bugs in your software. Then the malware enters into the software through the bugs. You can’t detect them as they will take over the software without any notice. 

So, to avoid such a problem in your e-signed documents, choose an electronic signature software which gets updated regularly. Some dedicated and reputed platforms consider potential exploit seriously. Besides, they also release updates and patches every month to keep the software safe. However, don’t forget to keep your OS and browsers up-to-date with latest updates. 

10. You don’t know what you are doing 

This is one of the significant security concerns for e-signed documents. Some users can deny that they don’t know about anything. For example, users can say they didn’t know about that a button when clicked will sign the documents. Besides, they can say that they didn’t get a chance to go through the document. If you are an electronic signature vendor, to counter such things, you need to prove that the signing process is a willful act and involves the consent of the parties. You can employ the flowing features for the e-signed documents.

  • Give the users a legal notice to let them know about the legal consequences of the signature. The users can’t sign the document until they accept the legal notice. 
  • To prevent people from claiming that they miss something important while signing the document, give them an initial for every paragraph. 
  • Make sure the GUI indicates the approve option for e-signed documents. Besides, make sure that it is written in the user’s regional language. Furthermore, allow the users to cancel the process in the middle. For example, a Decline option, by clicking on which they can cancel the operation. 

It’s not that due to the threats associated with electronic signatures, you shouldn’t use electronic signatures. Instead, you should consider these points while choosing an e-signature vendor.

Take as much as time you need and choose the right one 

E-signing software is quite easy to use. Some can be easily integrated with your website. However, it is essential to know everything about the e-signed documents and their threats. As a user, one should audit the vendor’s e-signature technology. Then compare it with the security requirements. Remember that not all the e-signatures of e-signed documents will offer you the same protection features. 

The untrusted vendor can offer hackers a lot of chances to attack as they don’t follow security measures carefully. So, always use trusted vendors as their cryptographic evidence is embedded directly into the document. Though there is no requirement for any third-party server as It dramatically reduces the entry points. 

Choose wisely and streamline the workflow without worrying about any threats!

Posted by Brian Felix

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