E signature technology accelerates many workflows in documentation by reducing delays and saving money by reducing postage, paper, and sending faxes. It also reduces the amount of time it takes to distribute documents for signers, and increases the ease at the ability to sign documents from remote locations.
A standard electronic signature is a picture of a typed or handwritten name that is attached to digital documents. These types of eSignatures don’t verify the identity of the signer or include any authentication or encryption features. A more advanced eSignature uses verification technology to create an encrypted hash of the signature data, and then connect it to a public key that is associated with the signer’s electronic identification. The recipient is able to decrypt the hash and then compare it with the public key to ensure that the document has not been altered after it was signed.
An agency can employ additional verification methods to improve the security of electronic signatures, such as passwords, two-factor authentication and biometrics. These more sophisticated forms of eSignatures are utilized in situations where there is a higher chance that the validity of the signature could be challenged.
Agencies should give special consideration to long-term, electronically-signed records that preserve legal rights. These records may require a longer software life cycle and it is essential to ensure that a record’s integrity is protected during any migration or upgrade processes. NARA’s guidance on records scheduling can assist agencies in determining the appropriate timeframes to keep these records.