Many people confuse digital signature with digital certificate but actually it is not the same. A digital signature is an electronic signature issued by an authority after appropriate verification. The reason for the verification is to make the digital or electronic signature authentic. A digital signature has many advantages. Firstly, it is portable. Secondly, it cannot be copied. Due to its immense security softwares provided by the certifying authority, it becomes impossible to copy the electronic signature. Thirdly, it is portable. A person does not have to go to the places personally and then sign a piece of document. It is easy to just sit in some other part of the world sign a particular contract and send it through e-mail. Fourthly, digital signature is prompt; it mainly comes handy when matter is urgent. Through courier no matter how much time it takes the document could be signed through digital signature and sent within few seconds.
A digital signature is an electronic form of a signature that can be used to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of a document, and also ensure that the original content of the message or document that has been sent is unchanged. Digital signatures are easily transportable and cannot be imitated by someone else. The ability to ensure that the original signed message arrived means that the sender cannot easily disclaim it later.
Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) is the electronic format of physical or paper certificate like a driving License, passport etc. Certificates serve as proof of identity of an individual for a certain purpose; for example, a Passport identifies someone as a citizen of that country; who can legally travel to any country. Likewise, a Digital Signature Certificate can be presented electronically to prove your identity, to access information or services on the Internet or to sign certain documents digitally.
A Digital Signature Certificate authenticates your identity electronically. It also provides you with a high level of security for your online transactions by ensuring absolute privacy of the information exchanged using a Digital Signature Certificate. You can use certificates to encrypt information such that only the intended recipient can read it. You can digitally sign information to assure the recipient that it has not been changed in transit, and also verify your identity as the sender of the message.
Legally valid Digital Signature Certificates are issued only through a Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA), Govt. of India,licensed Certifying Authorities (CA), such as eMudhra.
eMudhra, a Certifying Authority (CA) licensed by CCA, offers secure digital signatures through various options tailored to suit individual as well as organizational needs.
Hardware to secure the subscriber’s private key may also be advisable. Persons relying on digital signatures will incur expenses for verification software and perhaps for access to certificates and certificate revocation lists (CRL) in a repository.
E-Governance Applications in India using Digital Signatures The Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) utilized in India effectively serves as the digital equivalent of a hand written signature which has extra data attached electronically to any message or document. The following are some of the e-Governance applications already using the Digital Signatures:
MCA21 – a Mission Mode project under NeGP which is one of the first few eGovernance projects under NeGP to successfully implement Digital Signatures in their project.
Income Tax e-filing
IRCTC- Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation.
DGFT- Directorate General of Foreign Trade.