More Thoughts on Digital Signatures

I have written multiple times about using digital signatures. As I have pointed out before, however, what I am referring to in my posts is actually just a picture of my signature added to a PDF file. A true digital signature is different and includes security and verification protocols. Recently Adobe Acrobat hosted a webinar on using and deploying digital signatures.

Unfortunately, most of the conversation was over my head. It looks like I was not the only one. Ernie the Attorney reports at PDF for Lawyers:

The other day I attended a free online webinar by some Adobe gurus who dove deep into the arcana of digital signatures.  After the dive I realized that I had a mild case of the bends.

Here’s the problem.  Like most people who don’t live in an ‘enterprise world,’ where there’s a rigorous document review cycle, I just want to sometimes slap a ‘digital signature’ on a document and not have the recipient feel like I’ve sent them some bizarre totemic glyph.
My needs are simple.  Apparently, true digital signatures are not.
Ernie correctly notes that people are not familiar with digital signatures and most do not know what to do when they see one. As Ernie explains:
A signature, digital or not, has to satisfy two elements: (1) non-repudiability, and (2) acceptance by the receiving party.  In other words, the point of signing a document is so the recipient knows it’s from you, and that you can’t deny it’s from you (i.e. you can’t repudiate authorship of the document).  Digital signatures are far superior to regular signatures in this arena.  Where they fail miserably is in the ‘acceptance’ part.
Because digital signatures are not familiar to most people they freak out if they see a bunch of numbers where they’re used to seeing indecipherable human scrawl.  So, how to remedy this problem?
The quick and dirty fix is to do what I outline in that blurb I mentioned a few sentences ago. Just create a stamp and slap that on the document you want to ‘sign.’  It won’t be secure like a real digital signature (and if you want to repudiate it you can say your secretary exceeded her authority and stamped it without your knowledge).  But, let’s say you’re a fair-minded, by-the-rules kind of guy (or gal).  Is there another option?
Turns out there is (although this wasn’t covered in the Adobe webinar; I had to find it myself using a snorkle).

Check out Ernie’s entire post to see a simple way of incorporating both a normal looking signature and a digital signature in your electronic documents.