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Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature – Learn the Difference

A Quick Look at Difference Between Digital Signature & Electronic Signature

Earlier in the days, around 50-70 years back, life was so simple. When someone said signature, it was meant only one thing: to sign on paper using a pen. Now, in this evolving technology, everything seems to come with different meanings, and signature is one among them.

If you say only word signature, in today’s digital world, it won’t be clear of what type of signature you’re talking about. Many types of signatures are there, though primarily there’s two – Digital Signature and Electronic Signature. Though, people who are not working or not relying on technology are still blessed to think that there’s only one signature, the one which is done using a pen.

Besides, if you’re someone who has started learning about online signatures, then it’s quite easy to confuse the term electronic signature and digital signature interchangeably. No doubt, the digital signature is one form of electronic signature, but they are completely different from each other.

Let’s dive into it and learn what they’re and how they differ from each other.

What’s Digital Signature?

The digital signature is something that involves the use of algorithms and coding for signing and validating the authenticity of a document. Unlike electronic signatures, digital signature requires to fulfill certain process before acquiring it. They’re not only used for signing the document, but they’re also used for encrypting it, which means it becomes unreadable for everyone except the intended party.

These digital certificates consist of Public Key and Private Key pairs, where the private key is used for encrypting the data, which can later be decrypted only using its paired Public Key. Also, it’ll fail to decrypt the encrypted message/data, if both the key pairs don’t match with each other.

Trusted certificate authorities like DigiCert are responsible for issuing these digital certificates. Before it gets issued, these CAs make you go through a strict vetting process to assure that you’re what you say you’re.

Read More – Public Key Encryption

What’s Electronic Signature?

According to the U.S. Federal ESIGN Act passed earlier in 2000, the definition of electronic signature was given as “Electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.

An electronic signature is an electronic version of the signature you write on a paper. The way you sign your documents, electronic signatures are used in that similar fashion. But, when it comes to the electronic signature, you won’t be doing it manually with using your pen. Instead, you’ll sign the documents through a click or your fingerprint.

Sadly, everything has a certain disadvantage, and electronic signature have some. Comparatively, the electronic signature is less secured then digital signature. Mainly because there’s not any set of standards or robust coding techniques that are used with digital signatures, the receiver will never be able to verify the senders’ identity.

Documents signed with electronic signatures are open to attacks like MITM (Man-In-The-Middle) or data tampering. And, such attacks shouldn’t be taken lightly by the organization or an individual as it can lead to serious damages which can be hard to recover.

Another shortcoming of electronic signature is that for one person, there can be more than one signature, which you might not see in the real world. And, if you decide that you want to change the vendor of your signature provider, then you may also lose your old signature, which can become a tricky situation.

By going through digital and electronic signatures, it’s quite clear that digital signatures are quite a norm and prove to be more secure. Let’s compare each other side-by-side, to know better.

Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature

Digital Signature Electronic Signature
Purpose Used for securing documents. Used for verifying a document.
Issued By Digital signature certificates are authorized and issued by trusted certificate authorities like DigiCert. Usually doesn’t have any authorized entity for issuance.
Vetting It’s not possible to get your digital signature issued by certificate authorities without completing the vetting process, which is required to verify your identity. It doesn’t require any vetting.
Types Commonly digital signatures are seen in Adobe and Microsoft documents. Electronic signatures include electronic, verbal ticks, or scanned signatures.
Usage Preference Due to its high level of authenticity, it’s more preferable. Less preferable.
Verification It’s possible to verify digital signatures. It’s not possible to verify an electronic signature.
Concerns & Intent Mostly concerned with securing the document/data. Intended towards showing the signed contract.
Attacks & Vulnerability Not vulnerable to any attacks. Vulnerable to attacks like MITM attacks and data tampering.
Encryption Robust coding and encryption techniques are used. Don’t use any coding or encryption.
Usage It’s not possible to reuse. It’s possible to reuse it.
Message Modification Modification of message or document not possible without the private key. The message/document can be modified.
Logs Digital signatures can keep logs of events when the signature was applied. It can also send alerts regarding the logs if anyone tries to tamper with. Not easy to apply audit logs when it comes to electronic signatures.
Details With Signature Along with the signed document, the digital signature also represents individuals’ signature that gives details about a person signing the document like full name, email address, and company name. If details have to be entailed along with electronic signature, it has to be done separately as it’s not possible to hold along with electronic signature itself, which makes it open to abuse.


We live in a technology-driven world, where it’s becoming quite a norm to send important documents in an electronic format. In such scenarios, it’s important to have proper knowledge regarding online signature and understand important aspects related to digital signature vs. electronic signature so that we can secure documents more efficiently.

Yet, by going through the above details, it’s right to say that though digital and electric signature terms are used interchangeably, but due to lack of experience or knowledge, not many knows that it does carry a different meaning, and the more we discover: “never the twain shall meet.”

No doubt, the purpose of both overlaps each other, i.e., authentication of a digital document by signature. But, again, due to many reasons including security and assurance provided by respected certificate authorities such as DigiCert or Sectigo, which make use of the PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), the digital signature is more preferable compared to an electronic signature.

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