The following section is aimed at trust service users. It gives a summary of the various types of electronic signatures and trust services and their application. Responses are also provided on frequently asked questions concerning the required signature environment and the resulting related expense, and the options for requesting a conciliation procedure are explained.
Until now trust services have been introduced mostly in the context of electronic signatures and electronic time stamps.
Based on the Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (‘eIDAS Regulation’), as of 1 July 2016 a distinction is now made between electronic signatures and electronic seals.
- Electronic signature: means data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign (Art. 3(10) eIDAS Regulation).
- Electronic seal: means data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form to ensure the latter’s origin and integrity (Art. 3(25) eIDAS Regulation).
- Electronic time stamp: means data in electronic form which binds other data in electronic form to a particular time establishing evidence that the latter data existed at that time (Art. 3(33) eIDAS Regulation).
These definitions do not depend on any particular technology. For example, writing your name at the bottom of an e-mail also constitutes an electronic signature. Such a signature has very little value as evidence, however, because it could be easily forged by anyone.
To create forgery-proof electronic signatures, cryptographic techniques can be used. Such a signature is commonly referred to as a ‘digital signature’, in distinction to an ‘electronic signature’.