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Application of PDF Digital Signature in Journal Editing Office

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2022-05-17 09:16:33 • Filed to: How-To-Windows • Proven solutions

A PDF Digital Signature is a legal imprint on an electronic document that validates the identity of the signer as well as the authenticity of the document. In an editorial office, PDF files are typically used as legal documentation, which makes the identity authentication part a crucial component of the workflow process. This is as true for a science and technology journal office as it is for other types of journal editing offices where the veracity of any documented information is paramount.

Part 1. How to Authenticate Electronic Documents

Various types of documents, such as copyright transfers, notices of employment, notices of layout fee, and others require the contents of the document to be legally validated using a signature or seal. The identity authentication of the signer is also important. As such, there are two key purposes of a PDF digital signature:

1. To make sure the document is issued by the author or editorial department.

A PDF digital signature validates the fact that the document was, in fact, issued by the author or editorial department in question. In other words, it confirms the source of the information for legal purposes such as copyright ownership, formal acknowledgment of employment, etc.

2. To verify that the file has not been modified in any way during network transfers.

Another function of PDF digital signatures is to ensure that no unauthorized changes have been made to the document while in transit. Since documents may be intercepted by others or fall into the wrong hands, this forms an important part of the validation process.

Part 2. Overview of Digital Signatures

So, how do digital signatures achieve such authentication standards? To understand that we need to know what a digital signature is and how authentication is accomplished with a digital signature. Let's take a look at these two aspects.

1. Definition of a Digital Signature

A digital signature is very similar to a handwritten signature, but it goes far beyond that in terms of security. Essentially, it consists of a private key and a public key that is generated by a public key algorithm. These two keys are mathematically linked to each other the way a lock and key are matched to each other. Authentication of the origin of a document, along with its status and the identity of the author, can be done by confirming this match. In other words, if the source of a document is authentic, the public key will match the private key.

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2. Basis of Authentication

The private key allows the author of a document to validate themselves and the origin of the information in that document. When the public key accessible by the recipient of a document matches that private key, the document is authenticated. Naturally, the whole process depends on the private key remaining private to the owner of the digital signature. If not, there's no guarantee that the document is authentic because anyone with access to that private key can generate a digital signature for that person.

To expand on the lock and key analogy, the private key essentially represents the lock, while the public key represents the key to open that lock. If the private key falls into the wrong hands, another ‘lock can be created, which can be opened by the public key, thereby indicating - wrongly - that the original owner of the private key has authenticated that document.

Asymmetric cryptography is just one of the methods used to secure a document. Others include:

  • Passcodes, PINs, and passwords
  • TSP Validation
  • CA Validation
  • CRC
  • Checksum

Part 3. How to Sign a PDF

PDF digital signatures can be generated by any capable PDF editor such as Wondershare PDFelement or Adobe Acrobat. These platforms can also generate electronic signatures, which are different from digital signatures but are also legally valid. In this section, will look at how to create and apply a digital signature to a PDF document using Wondershare Wondershare PDFelement - PDF Editor.

  • 1. Launch PDFelement and click Open on the welcome page to import the document to be signed.
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  • 2. The toolbar will now display several annotation tools. Bring your mouse over the last one and select Create Signature in the dropdown.
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  • 3. In the new window, you can either draw a signature with your mouse or use the trackpad signature feature recently.
  • 4. After creating the signature, click an area on the document where you want the signature to appear.
  • 5. You can now resize the signature using the box edge handles or by bringing your mouse over it and click-dragging it to another position in the document.

You can now save the file and also secure it with a password for additional security. Your signature can now authenticate you as the author of the information in that document.

Part 4. What Is the Future of Digital Signatures

Digital signatures are already in wide use in various industries and sectors. governmental agencies such as the IRS use them to process tax returns and other transactional processes. The manufacturing sector uses them for quality assurance, sales contracts, etc. In healthcare, digital signatures are used to beef up data security and to achieve compliance with stringent regulatory standards such as HIPPA. Financial institutions use them for loan processing, cashless banking, contracts, insurance documents, and so on. Even blockchain technologies such as cryptocurrencies use digital signatures to validate the authenticity of a blockchain and currency ownership of users.

The digital signature support market is rapidly expanding and has accelerated over the course of the pandemic as more and more companies opt for electronic document formats over traditional paper documents. According to ResearchAndMarkets, the global digital signature industry was worth $1.5 billion in 2019. By 2030, that figure is expected to expand to nearly $30 billion, growing at a compounded annual growth rate or CAGR of 28.6% between now and then.

So why is the digital signature market growing so fast? The main reason is that it offers several advantages over traditional physical signatures:

  • Save Time - Digital signatures can be applied to documents online and shared electronically, saving the time otherwise required to physically sign a document and send it over by courier or post.
  • Save Money - Physical resource usage can be greatly reduced by switching to digital signatures. This includes paper, storage space, delivery costs, etc.
  • Trackability - Since digital signatures generate audit trails, such trails can be used to reduce human error.
  • Timestamped - Since digital signatures come with a timestamp when required, it plays a crucial role in areas such as patent applications, stock trades, etc.
  • Save the Planet - By helping reduce the usage of physical paper, digital signatures help the environment.
  • Global Acceptance - Over the years, nearly every country in the world has come to accept digital signatures as legal proof that will stand up in any court of law.

Final Thoughts

Not all digital signatures are created equal. There are essentially three classes of digital signatures based on the potential legal impact when the underlying data is compromised.

Class 1: High Severity - These digital signatures are typically used for electronic ticket issuance, court filings, e-auctions, etc., where the signer must prove their identity to a certifying authority before signing the document. In such cases, the consequences of the information being compromised are often extreme.

Class 2: Moderate Severity - Tax filing, GST returns, etc. use this class of digital signature. In these cases, a database of identities is maintained, and the signer's identity is authenticated against this database.

Class 3: Low Severity - In cases where the economic or legal impact of data being compromised is relatively low, such signatures can be used. Examples of this may be internal HR documents circulated for acknowledgment by employees, etc. However, this class of digital signatures cannot be used for legal business documents such as employment contracts, Non-Compete Agreements, non-disclosure agreements, etc. where it may lead to adjudication by a court or a third-party arbitrator.

PDFelement is an essential part of the business workflow because it not only generates electronic signatures and digital signatures but also helps businesses digitize and manage their document workflows. Here are some of the functions of PDFelement:

  • Editing - PDF documents can be edited prior to applying a digital signature, ensuring the accuracy and currency of the data contained in the file.
  • Creation and Conversion of PDF - PDFelement can convert more than 300 files types into PDF documents for the purpose of security, sharing, viewability, etc. It can also convert PDFs back into native formats such as Word, Pages, HTML, Images, EPUB, etc.
  • Annotations, Filling, and Signing - Annotations can be added to a file before it is digitally signed, but you can also use a workaround to create a copy of a signed file for annotation without changing the original and violating the authentication. In addition, PDFelement allows you to fill and sign digital forms and authenticate them.
  • PDF Security - To further secure a digitally signed document, you can add password protection as an additional security layer. This will prevent anyone from opening the file or modifying it, copying it, or printing it. Encryption can also be applied to a batch of files using the Batch Process feature.

With these and so many other benefits making a compelling case to use PDFelement, it's not surprising that businesses are rapidly gravitating to this platform. What makes it truly attractive is that all of this functionality is available for a fraction of the price of a typically premium PDF editor. Moreover, it's easy to deploy and there are versions for iOS, Windows, and Mac, making it easy for a company's employees to use it across several devices at home, at work, or on the go.

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Free Download or Buy PDFelement right now!

Buy PDFelement right now!

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Audrey Goodwin

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