10 Differences Between Digital Signatures And Electronic Signatures

Editorial Team

Differences Between Digital Signatures And Electronic Signatures

For a while, companies and businesses have been using various electronic communication solutions to protect communication or certify digital identities on a network. Business digital transformation is impacted by the rising concerns of validation, authentication, recognition, trust, reliability, and security of digital transactions. For this reason, many enterprises are turning to digital signatures and electronic signatures for official business communication.

Printing documents, scanning, and sending them back and forth to be signed have become a thing of the past. Nowadays, businesses operate digitally and use digital and electronic signatures. Many people believe that they are synonymous; however, these two aren’t interchangeable. It’s therefore important to clarify the difference between the two due to the confusion from users. Before looking at the differences, we first look at the definitions.

Understanding Digital Signatures

A digital signature refers to an encrypted stamp of authentication on electronic documents and messages. Digital signatures create secure signatures that work with electronic signatures and rely on public key infrastructure to digitally encrypt documents. It can be seen as an electronic fingerprint that encrypts and authenticates an individual’s identity. It’s the best method of securing a document. Trust providers or trusted certificate authorities mainly validate a digital signature. A digital signature is more preferred than electronic signatures since it’s more secure and authentic.

Definition Of Electronic Signature

An electronic signature or esignature is an efficient and legal way to sign documents quickly electronically. It’s a digital form of a wet signature that’s secure and legally binding, but it doesn’t incorporate any standards or coding. It can be in the form of an electronic symbol, image, a process attached, or a document to show identity and give consent. E-signature is used when documents only need verification. Electronic signature validation is usually not authorized as it’s not performed by trusted service providers or trusted authorities. An electronic signature is faster and easier to use, but it’s also less secure and authentic than a digital signature.

The Differences Between Digital Signatures And Electronic Signatures

As stated, digital signatures and electronic signatures are often used interchangeably. However, these two aren’t the same. Note that electronic signatures include all forms of signatures, while digital signatures are attached to an actual signature. The differences between digital signatures and electronic signatures are as outlined below:

  1. Digital signatures are mainly used to protect documents so unauthorized persons without permission can’t mess with them. On the other hand, electronic signatures are mainly used to sign electronic documents where the signer intends to sign the document with his e-signature. Electronic signatures are generally used for verification.

  2. Based on the processing platform, digital signature has two types: Adobe and Microsoft PDF. Conversely, an electronic signature is of four types: an advanced electronic signature, qualified signature, click-to-sign signature, and basic electronic signature.

  3. A digital signature is validated by trusted service providers or trusted certification authorities, while electronic signatures may be validated by some national acts and regulations.

  4. Digital signatures can also be authorized by the government or non-government certification providers, while electronic signatures are authorized by document creators, participating parties, or specific vendors.

  5. For a digital signature, the authentication mechanism is embedded in a signed document using a certified based digital ID. An electronic signature can be through a password, PIN, email, or any other expression of consent.

  6. Digital signatures use highly advanced forms of standardization called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), while the keying standardization is not advanced in electronic signatures.

  7. Digital signatures are created using high standards of cryptographic algorithms, thus enhancing their security. Electronic signatures don’t depend on standards making them less secure.

  8. Due to their high-security standards, digital signatures are more reliable, secure, and less susceptible to tampering than electronic signatures.

  9. Digital signatures contain audit logs that are applied to help easily track any changes made to the document. For electronic signatures, it can be challenging to apply the audit logs.

  10. In digital signatures, you can easily obtain the details of the signatory as they’re linked with the signature itself. The details can’t be held in the electronic signature for electronic signatures but are held separate from the signature.


While digital and electronic signatures are often used interchangeably, it’s evident from the above that they differ significantly. Electronic signatures are the same as handwritten ones, only that they’re digitized and help verify documents. On the other hand, digital signatures have many unique features making them more preferred because of their authenticity and security. Keep this in mind as you set out to digitize your business communications.