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Difference Between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

Difference Between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

Electronic signature and digital signature are often used interchangeably but the truth is that these two concepts are different. The main difference between the two is that digital signature is mainly used to secure documents and is authorized by certification authorities while electronic signature is often associated with a contract where the signer has got the intention to do so. More details about the difference between the two are provided below.

Key features of Digital Signature

A digital signature is characterized by a unique feature that is in digital form like fingerprint that is embedded in a document. The signer is required to have a digital certificate so that he or she can be linked to the document. Digital signature is often authorized by certification authorities that are responsible for providing digital certificates that can be compared to licenses or passports. A digital certificate is used to validate the document to ascertain its authenticity if it has not been forged. This plays a pivotal role in verifying the identity of the original person with the signature.

The other key feature of a digital signature is that it is used to secure digital documents. There are some people who have a tendency of tempering with digital documents obtained online but with a digital signature, this can be impossible. The document is secured and can only be accessed by the authorized person for any alterations or amendments.

When a digital signature is applied to a certain document, the digital certificate is bound to the data being signed into one unique fingerprint. These two components of the digital signature are unique and this makes it more viable than wet signatures since its origins can be authenticated. This cryptographic operation helps to perform the following functions:

  • Prove the authenticity of the document and its source
  • Make sure that the document has not been tempered with
  • Personal identity has been verified.

The other notable aspect about digital signature is that it is comprised of different types that are supported by mainly two document processing platforms that are adobe and Microsoft.

Adobe Signature

Certified and approval are the two types of signatures supported by adobe

  • A certified signature indicates the real author of the document and it displays a blue ribbon on top of it showing the name of author and issuer of certificate for authentication.
  • Approval signature on the other hand captures the approval made by the signer such as physical signature and other relevant details.

Microsoft Word Signature

Two types of digital signature that supported by Microsoft include visible as well as non visible.

  • Signature line is like a physical document where many people can sign.
  • Invisible signatures on the other hand are used for providing document authentication. The main advantage of this type of signature is that it cannot be tampered with and this is very important since it helps to secure the document so that it cannot be accessed by unauthorized people.

Key Features of Electronic signature

An electronic signature is described as any electronic symbol, process or sound that is associated with a record or contract where there is intention to sign the document by the party involved. The major feature of an electronic signature is thus the intention to sign the document or the contract. The other notable aspect that makes an electronic signature different from a digital signature is that an electronic signature can be verbal, a simple click of the box or any electronically signed authorization.

The main feature of an electronic signature is that it reveals the intent by the signer to sign the document. This is usually applicable to contracts or other related agreements that are entered into by two parties. As noted, there are different types of electronic signatures and these are legally binding once all parties have shown their commitment and intent to enter into a certain contract.

The other aspect about an electronic signature is that it helps to verify the document. If it has been signed, its authenticity can be verified where the parties involved can be identified. However, an electronic document can be difficult to verify given that a digital certificate similar to the one given for digital signature is not provided.

The other notable feature of an electronic signature is that it is used to execute an agreement. For instance, in a contract, two people usually agree to fulfill certain duties and this agreement can only become legally binding when it has been signed by both parties. This is when an electronic signature can be used. On top of that, it can be observed that electronic signatures are commonly used in contracts by virtue of the fact that they are easy to use.

Table Showing Differences Between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

Digital Signature Electronic Signature
Used to secure a document Mainly used to verify a document
A digital signature is authorized and regulated by certification authorities Usually not authorized
Comprised of more security features Comprised of less security features
Common types of digital signature are based on Adobe and Microsoft Main types of electronic signature include verbal, electronic ticks or scanned signatures.
A digital signature can be verified An electronic signature cannot be verified.
Preferred more than electronic signature due to high levels of authenticity Easy to use but less authentic
Particularly concerned about securing the document Shows intent to sign the contract


  • The main purpose of a digital signature is to secure a document so that it is not tampered with by people without authorization
  • An electronic signature is mainly used to verify a document. The source of the document and the authors are identified.


  • Digital signature is authorized and regulated by certification authorities. These are trusted third parties entrusted with the duty to perform such task.
  • Electronic signatures are not regulated and this is the reason why they are less favorable in different states since their authenticity is questionable. They can be easily tampered with.


  • A digital signature is comprised of more security features that are meant to protect the document
  • An electronic signature is less secure since it is not comprised of viable security features that can be used to secure it from being tampered with by other people without permission.

Types of signatures

  • Two common types of digital signatures are mainly based on document processing platforms namely Adobe PDF and Microsoft
  • An electronic signature can be in the following forms: scanned image, verbal or a tick can be used on an electronic document. The main idea behind is to identify the person who has signed the document for contractual purposes


  • A digital signature can be verified to see if the document has not been tempered with. A digital certificate can be used to track the original author of the document.
  • It may be difficult to verify the real owner of the signature since it is not certified. This compromises the authenticity as well as integrity of the document.


  • A digital signature is usually meant for securing a document so that it is not tampered with by unauthorized people. All the same, it is legally binding and preferred since it is authentic by virtue of its traceability to the owner of the document.
  • An electronic signature usually shows the intent to sign the document or contract. In most cases, when people want to enter into a contract, they show their commitment by signing a document that will become legally binding between them.


Over and above, it can be observed that digital and electronic signatures are terms that are often used interchangeably but they differ significantly. Basically, an electronic signature is specifically used to confirm the terms of a particular document and is equivalent to a handwritten signature. The only difference is that an electronic signature is digitized but it is also used to verify a document. On the other hand, it can be observed that a digital signature is comprised of unique features such as fingerprint that are used to secure a particular document. A digital signature is preferred because it provides the integrity and authenticity that can be used in court. A digital signature is verifiable since it is authorized by a trusted third party known as certification authority. Therefore, the type of signature that can be used is determined by the type of document you want to sign as well as the level of authenticity that is expected of the document. Though both electronic and digital signatures are legally binding, the later is preferred since it is more secure than the former.

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  1. There is a glaring mistake in this article. Perhaps spell check was used, but proofreading wasn’t—unless the author does not know what the difference is between “tempering” and “tampering”.

    To wit:

    “. . .have a tendency of tempering with digital documents. . .”

    That should be TAMPERING, not tempering.

  2. Mistake # 2:

    Make sure that the document has not been tempered with

    This proves the author DOES NOT know the difference between “tempering” and “tampering”.

  3. All digital signatures have or will be cracked. They are not secure and should never be accepted for legal documents period.

  4. Dai Thomas! Keep quite … don’t act too smart.

  5. Thanks for the concisely written article with self explanatory diagram.

  6. Writing a paper on this, thanks very much for the info.

  7. Thank you for providing very useful information. I really got very good information. I think the signature has no difference. Digital signatures and electronic signatures are very efficient than signatures using a pen. stiply.nl

  8. Hi,
    Good article. Just more clearity was required. But really it’s good otherwise

  9. Thanks for sharing this. Very useful blog. we are the top Bulk PDF Signer Software provider in India.

  10. A very informative article distinguishing the Digital Signatures and Electronic Signatures.

  11. You really did hard research and wrote very well. I will try to always keep these points while purchasing software. Great job

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References :

[0]Assure sign “Electronic Signatures Vs Digital Signatures… What’s the Difference?” https://www.assuresign.com/electronic-signatures-vs-digital-signatures/

[1]Global Sign “The Difference Between Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures” https://www.globalsign.com/en/blog/electronic-signatures-vs-digital-signatures/

[2]Signix “The difference between digital signatures and electronic signatures” https://www.signix.com/blog/bid/92791/The-Difference-Between-Digital-Signatures-and-Electronic-Signatures


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