How to Create an Electronic Signature for Legal Documents and More

How to Create an Electronic Signature for Legal Documents and More

How to create an electronic signature? The objective is to sign documents electronically while maintaining their integrity and legal value. To do this, they need to obtain an electronic signature certificate from a trusted third party. However, it's not that simple.

appvizer sets the digital signature in the context of paperless document management where the legal value of a document is at the heart of the issues. We give you all the ins and outs of electronic signatures, followed by three recommendations for software that are armed to the teeth to make you smile again.

Definition of Electronic Signature in 5 Points

What is an electronic signature? It is a signature made electronically using information and verification systems, such as cryptography, to certify the digital identity of the signatory, known as the "author".

This digital signature has the legal value and is now replaced by the signature handwriting, which in many cases is likely to be discontinued.

Criteria 1: Main Characteristics

To reflect the same legal value as a handwritten signature, an online electronic signature must meet the following conditions:

  • The signatory must have an electronic certificate authenticating their identity.
  • The digital signature procedure must be secure and certified as compliant.
  • The signature is final, the signatory can not argue it.
  • The document to be signed must be original, unalterable and not editable.
  • Signed documents must be kept in a secure electronic safe for 10 years.

Examples of electronic signatures:

Types of documents

There are different types of documents to be signed electronically:

  • Invoices
  • Pay slips,
  • emails,
  • Commercial contracts,
  • Supplier contracts,
  • Letters,
  • Internal memos,
  • Validation messages,
  • HR processes,
  • Quotes,
  • Purchase orders, etc.

Format

There are different file formats for signed documents, including:

  • Word format,
  • PDF format,
  • XML format,
  • Image format such as JPG or PNG, etc.

Application examples :

  • The most common and recommended file format for contracts is PDF because it is not editable and can be signed electronically.
  • Both public institutions and local authorities also use XML files.

The eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services) regulation, which came into force on July 1, 2016, defines a framework and strict standards for electronic commerce and aims to harmonize practices at the European level.

Through secure electronic exchanges, the objective is to build trust between individuals, businesses and public administrations. The legal electronic signature procedure is thus linked to an electronic identification.

This electronic identification, called an electronic signature certificate is issued and guaranteed by companies called trusted third parties. These companies themselves obtain certifications before becoming trusted third parties. Certifications for trusted third parties are issued by recognised bodies such as ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, as well as other parties that exist at a national level (e.g.: ANSSI in France).

To become a trusted third party, a company must, among other things:

  • Comply with the security and confidentiality obligations defined by the eIDAS Regulation,
  • Apply the RGS repository to be compliant (signature encryption, cryptography, etc.),
  • Obtain the mandatory certifications from recognized organisations,
  • Obtain a trust label, defining a transparency framework, etc.

Criteria 3: Trusted Third Party and Electronic Signature Certificate

As we have just seen, to guarantee and certify the integrity of a digital signature, a strict device authenticates the digital identity of the signatory.

A certifying agency recognized as a trusted third party issues an electronic signature certificate to a signatory.

Equipped with this certificate, the signatory can thus carry out digital exchanges and sign remotely via electronic means by affixing a digital signature certified by an authority attesting to his identity.

It is therefore recommended to ensure that your trusted third party has obtained these certifications before using electronic software.

Criteria 4: Digital Signature for Public Procurement

Electronic signature standards for public procurement are in compliance with the requirements for strong authentication dematerialization.

The ChamberSign Certification Authority issues the necessary signature certificates to respond to public tenders on platforms dedicated to public procurement tenders.

These certificates work with a specific USB key, which is different from a conventional storage value USB key.

There are 3 different formats of digital signatures:

  • The PAdES format for signing documents in PDF format (Acrobat), as an attached signature, with only one file,
  • The CAdES format for signing documents in Word, Excel, and PDF formats, as a separate signature with 2 files,
  • The XAdes format for signing documents in XML format.

Criteria 5: The Benefits of Dematerialisation

Dematerialisation in general, and more particularly the electronic signature of documents, primarily accelerates administrative and commercial exchanges.

In the list of benefits, we can include:

  • Reduced processing time, since the signature is instantaneous,
  • Secure file flows,
  • Simplified and durable archiving,
  • Development of digital trust,
  • Considerable financial savings (end of paper, printing and related storage space),
  • Tracking of documents and the avoidance of human errors,
  • Increased productivity (time saving, end of excessive physical travel),
  • Standards promote international trade (security, transparency).

How to Create a Signature: The Guide

Some examples

The steps to perform a digital document signature with a software (here, Yousign):

  • Receive an email
  • Read the document
  • Receive the validation code
  • Electronic Signature

The steps to request an electronic document signature:

  • Login to Yousign
  • Import PDF document
  • Add signatories
  • Send the email request

11 steps to Create an Electronic Signature

Electronic signature software works in a similar way. In the table below, appvizer details the steps that determine the creation of a digital document signature in accordance with the regulations:

The 11 steps to make a legal electronic document signature

 Step To have a document signed To sign a document
 #1 Choose a secure electronic signature software Choose a secure electronic signature software
 #2

Obtain an electronic certificate provided by a trusted third party guaranteeing the digital identity

Step to be performed only once

Obtain an electronic certificate provided by a trusted third party guaranteeing the digital identity

Step to be performed only once

 #3 Identify the nature of the document and the recipient Import the document into your software
 #4 Choose the formatting adapted to your document Read the document in the software
 #5 Import the document into your software Receive the security code by SMS and validate it in the software
 #6 Choose the type of signature Choose the type of signature
 #7 Send the signature request to the recipient Sign the document
 #8 Monitor the status of the document in real time to meet deadlines and remind the recipient if forgotten Confirm and send
 #9 Receive the signed document The software saves the signed document
 #10 Archive the document in an electronic safe for the required legal period Archive the document in an electronic safe for the required legal period
 #11 Administrative, legal and tax management is secure and reliable: the document is tracked and can easily be found Administrative, legal and tax management is secure and reliable: the document is tracked and can easily be found

8 Tips for Creating a Digital Signature

To ensure that nothing is forgotten about the essential elements that constitute an online electronic signature, it is essential to observe the following safety points:

Tip 1: Use secure electronic signature software

No company wants a third party organization to access its information, or steal its identity!

Tip 2: Obtain an electronic certificate from a trusted third party that guarantees your digital identity

It is about having a certified digital identity to make oneself identifiable when requesting a signature or to confirm when signing.

Tip 3: Choose the right type of signature

Depending on the context, you must choose, for example, between the signature pad for receiving a client's signature, the pad to upload your own signature, or the trusted third party seal for documents that must have legal value.

Tip 4: Choose the right format

Focus on electronic signatures in PDF format for contracts.

Tip 5:  Send the right document format

Send a document format that cannot be modified, but that can be signed electronically.

Tip 6: Follow instructions

Distinguish between the signature and the signature request and follow the instructions step by step.

Tip 7: Plan ahead

Plan ahead for electronic archiving to enable effective management.

Tip 8: Prohibit free electronic signatures

Some online services allow you to sign a document electronically free of charge. appvizer strongly discourages this practice: your company may disclose sensitive or confidential data, without any confidentiality or security controls. As for the certification of your digital identity, there is still serious doubt. Instead, we recommend that you test tools free of charge for 30 days and attend a free demonstration beforehand: serious companies display their certifications and provide a consulting service to adapt to the needs of each company.

Choosing an Electronic Signature Software

appvizer has chosen to introduce two electronic signature solutions that are recognized by the certification authorities: the software offered is regularly updated to comply with the decrees and regulations in force.

All the requirements regarding the confidentiality and security of information as well as the technical conditions, particularly in terms of time stamping, are met to facilitate your signature processes and respect the integrity of your documents.

DocuSign

DocuSign is the market-leading solution for electronic document signing for all companies in all industries.

A dashboard provides easy access to documents recently signed or awaiting signature in order to ensure effective follow-up of your quotes, invoices, budgets, contracts, purchase orders, etc.

Discover DocuSign through this video:

DocuSign is a 100% online software solution that simplifies electronic signature processes:

  • Documentation can be submitted for signing from a PC, tablet, smartphone or any of the 350 built-in integrations
  • You can sign documents from any device: computer, smartphone or tablet (via the web or free mobile application)
  • Signed docs are centrally managed in this software

Important: the DocuSign solution is equipped with an electronic safe to ensure secure electronic archiving.

Eversign

Eversign Digital Signature

Eversign is a software as a service that provides you with the necessary resources to ensure your documents are secure in the cloud. You can create an E mail signature as well as legally binding signatures for other documents with this ultra-efficient electronic signature application. eversign will surely appeal to you through its quality and simplicity as it has templates that can be configured to work on documents such as contracts or forms.

In these templates, you can:

  • Pre-fill with custom texts
  • Add dropdown menus
  • Add checkboxes
  • Set specific fonts
  • Etc. 

This IT tool has no storage requirements, making it easier to use on a daily basis. The data is then stored at the apilayer company where the apilayer software vendor simplifies the process by providing maintenance and updates for your software. With its many features such as Electronic Signature Validation, Electronic Document Signature and Document Time Stamp, eversign is highly appreciated. No matter your operating system, eversign can be used with SaaS, which works simply through the web.

Yousign

Yousign is recognized as a trusted third party: it is a confirmation authority able to provide electronic signature certificates in France and throughout Europe.

Among the clients who trust Yousign are: bpifrance, Allianz, Auchan, FCA Capital France, Verspieren insurance broker, AON, FMA assurances, Cadis Formation, etc.  

The software vendor is very strict about the guarantees of security and confidentiality that they commit to provide. The solutions are effectively certified at the advanced level for electronic signature and at the qualified level for time stamping.

Below are a few reassuring check points:

  • The trusted service provider is eIDAS qualified, and has obtained an eIDAS compliance certificate
  • The European Telecommunications Standards Institute provided Yousign with the ETSI qualification and compliance certificate. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute is the European standardization body in the field of telecommunications
  • Yousign has obtained its certificate of conformity for trusted service providers (RGS), a security label based on French, European and international standards and regulations, issued by the conformity assessment body LSTI
  • Yousign is a trusted service provider and on the list of service providers recognized by ANSSI, the French National Agency for Information Systems Security

Noteworthy point: Yousign integrates an electronic safe into its solution and facilitates the archiving process.

A New Challenge for all Companies

Dematerialization is not a trend, but an operational reality that accelerates the processes of companies and administrations.

In a controlled and secure environment, the company, an SME or a group on a national or international scale, benefits considerably: in addition to saving time and money, it has become a factor of competitiveness through the increasing productivity it has to offer.

This framework is defined by regulation Clearly trusted third party and meet demanding specifications as well as precise standards to Provide the best services Whose legal and judicial value meets the greatest number of requirements.

Comment on this article

Add new comment