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Why You Should Always Include A Timestamp for Digital Signature

Is it possible to sign a digital document? It is essential to recognize that we rely on a signature to guarantee a person's identity. However, considering that there are cameras and scanners. What assures us that someone did not forge the signature?


Fortunately, we have very effective security systems that allow us to guarantee the integrity of the information and the legitimacy of the signatures. Thanks to this, we can work with sensitive information such as personally identifiable financial information, biometric data, medical information, and unique identifiers as social security numbers or passports. These technologies were explicitly designed to be easy to use and difficult or impossible to beat. A prominent example of this is digital signatures. They have many more security filters than you can imagine.

Part 1. What Is Timestamping

Timestamping consists of registering a sequence of characters that denote the time and date an event occurs. We rely on timestamps and use them to organize and catalog events in chronological order.

There are many scenarios where timestamps are necessary. For security reasons, all operating systems use timestamps for file management as they rely on that information to make backup and data recovery processes possible. In addition, they are pretty helpful for document management since they are used as a reference to indicate when someone reviewed, read, edited, or signed a document. However, the timestamp created by an operating system is not designed to be a security measure.

Regarding digital signatures, timestamping is a bit more complicated since it is an online mechanism that uses the services of a third party to generate a temporary certificate. These certificates validate a digital signature for a specified time and demonstrate that the data has existed and has not been altered from a specific instant in time. When the time limit for these certificates expires, People can assume that the signer did not renew the certificate and, therefore, the signature is no longer valid.

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Part 2. How Does Timestamping Work

Thanks to timestamping, it is possible to manage and sign documents sensitive to the passage of time. For example, invoices, records, electronic votes, and contracts. The computer security and information security industry has been developing security protocols and systems for decades to ensure that only authorized persons can read and modify information.

There are many information security protocols, but all must meet three requirements.

  • Information must be encrypted.

  • You must control the structure and sequence of information.

  • The identity of whoever tries to access the information must be authenticated to prevent unauthorized persons from viewing or modifying the content.

The objective of these protocols is to create security mechanisms that make it possible to protect the integrity of the information without restricting access to persons authorized by the user. These mechanisms must have reliable authentication methods that allow identifying the people who the user has authorized to access the information. Some of these authentication methods are passwords, PIN codes, biometric authenticators, and smart cards.

To create a digital signature is necessary to add a security lock such as a password, a PIN code, or the user's biometric values since it will be required for the cryptographic security process that protects the signature. The data is used to create an algorithm that stipulates all the information it contains and later messes it up to create chaos and prevent it from being reconstructed without the user's authorization.

In addition to the security filters offered by digital signatures. Timestamping consists of taking advantage of the services that provide timestamping services, these companies can be called the Time Stamping Authority (TSA), and they act as certification service providers.

Wondershare PDFelement

Simplify how people interact and communicate with PDF documents using intuitive and powerful PDF tools.


Part 3. What Will Happen If Not Adding a Timestamp in Digital Signature

Adding a timestamp to your digital signature is not always necessary. There are many situations in which placing a digital signature will be more than enough. However, there are other scenarios where you want the validity of your signature to have a deadline. Next, I will talk about cases where you may be interested in using a timestamp in your digital signature.

Electronic invoicing

The certification of the date of issuance of an invoice by a Time Stamp Service Provider can be decisive in judicial processes in cases of delinquency.

Electronic commerce

The greatest quality that defines electronic commerce is that it must be effective and secure. Unlike conventional commerce, must consider shipping times and correctly estimate the time it may take for products to reach their destination, taking as a reference the exact moment when an order is placed. An electronic signature with a temporary certificate will allow you to manage the guarantees very easily.

 Logistics and distribution

The logistics sector deals specifically with the delivery of products under the conditions agreed with the customer. There is nothing more important than time for this sector, so it is normal that all the processes involved are registered and must have a timestamp.

Rental services

The acquisition of services for a defined time is a trendy business model. It is practically a fact that we all use this type of service, such as renting a home. Using digital signatures with timestamps is essential to work with contracts related to acquiring this type of service.


Working with tax information is a great responsibility. Those dedicated to making financial reports must be very precise with all the information they report, especially the dates. Using digital signatures with timestamps facilitates the management of these reports and reduces the possibility of making errors to zero.

Part 4. How to Add a Timestamp to Digital Signature and Documents

Some tools allow you to add timestamps to a digital signature. PDFelement is an all-in-one document manager. This program specializes in managing PDF documents, but it is also compatible with many other formats and allows you to manage digital signatures easily. Next, I will show you how to create a digital signature with a timestamp and use it.

Step 1: Go to Sign document

Once you have opened the document you want to sign with PDFelement, go to the "Protect" section, click on the "Sign Document" button, and click on the place you want to set the signature.

sign document

Step 2: Choose an existing sign or create a new one

In the "Sign document" window, you will find a drop-down menu in which you can click to select a digital signature that you have previously created. If you don't have one, click on the "New ID" button.

new id

Step 3: Follow the steps

In the ID creation window, follow the instructions that you will see on the screen. All you have to do is fill in the fields with your personal information.

add digital id

Step 4: Set a password

Now, you need to choose a destination location where PDFelement will save your digital signature file. The file will be encrypted so that only you can use it. To finish, set a password and confirm it.

set password

Step 5: Choose the appearance preferences

When you finish creating your digital signature, you will return to the “Sign a document” tool. Once there, go to the Appearance section and click on the drop-down menu on your right. If you have not yet created a style, click on "Create a New Style."

appearance preferences

Step 6: Create a signature Style

In this window, you will find everything you need to personalize your digital signature. You can upload images, logos, or your name and choose what information you want your digital signature to show. If you wish for your digital signature to have a timestamp, make sure to leave the "Date" option checked.

create a signature style

Closing Words

Every day it is more common and necessary to work with digital tools, as they assist the user, improve productivity and allow us to work remotely. Digital signatures are a significant technological advance, and thanks to this, we can work with practically any document without the slightest risk that they can be modified or falsified at any time. With the help of tools like PDFelement, it is possible to have these sophisticated security tools with just a couple of clicks.

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