E signature technology speeds up many processes in document management that reduce delays and also save money by reducing postage, paper, and the need for faxing. It also reduces the amount of time needed to send documents to signers and makes it easier to sign documents online.
An electronic signature is a picture of a handwritten or typed name that is attached to digital documents. Electronic signatures like these don’t include encryption or authentication features or verify the signer’s identity. A more sophisticated eSignature uses verification technology to generate a hash of the signature, and links it with an associated public key that identifies the signer’s identity. The recipient is able to decrypt the hash and match it to the public key to verify that the document has not been altered in any way since it was signed.
An agency can use additional verification methods to increase the security of eSignatures such as passwords biometrics, two-factor authentication and biometrics. These types of verification are employed when there is a greater risk that the validity of the signature will be challenged.
Agencies should give special consideration to long-term, electronically-signed records that preserve legal rights. These records may require a more lengthy software life cycle, and it is crucial to ensure that the record’s integrity is maintained during any migration or upgrade processes. NARA’s guidelines on scheduling records can help agencies determine the appropriate retention periods for these records.