The digital age has made our lives easier in many ways, eliminating the need to transfer documents using older mediums like “snail mail,” but certain challenges still arise when it comes to proving the legitimacy of a digital document.
The luxuries afforded by digital signatures and high-tech documentation mediums expand all the time, but it’s important to understand where the weak points are in these technologies so you can avoid exposing your clients or your personal data. Here are a few suggestions on how to stay secure.
1. Ensure compliance.
Make certain the document you’re signing and the technology you’re using to sign it are compliant under the Federal E-Sign Act.
If you’re involved in something high-stakes, we recommend avoiding any risk and simply having a lawyer review the document before you use an e-signature.
2. Keep backups of documents.
It makes sense to make copies of physical documents you sign, so why would you allow there to be only a single final copy of an important digital document? Keep a private copy of any digitally signed documents that pass through your hands and rename them so they aren’t confused with the original.
3. Don’t copy/paste.
Good signature software will collect an image of your mark and store it somewhere in encrypted format for comparison against future signatures. Don’t simply copy/paste your signature from an old document onto a later document, there is no certificate — the digital locator for your signature — associated with this mark, so it can’t give any guarantee of security.
4. Use a trusted application.
Unless you’re a software engineer, it can be difficult to assess whether a document uses a trustworthy method of authentication just by looking at it. Many programs are capable of creating a document with some type of signature field.
There are best-of-breed programs in this market space, and you should know what they are and how to recognize them. This review by the team at Capterra contains quite a few, along with feedback about what worked well and what didn’t. eSignLive, DocuSign and Adobe Document Cloud all offer this service, along with many more.
5. Keep it local.
If you have the ability to do so, a strong knowledge of where exactly your data is stored and what security measures are in front of it is valuable. Storing data on foreign networks could increase your exposure to threats, and a platform that uses only domestic resources will typically provide you more robust security. That means better peace of mind.
6. Know when to sign in-person.
There are still some situations where hard copy is just necessary. If you don’t know what these are, we’re here to help.
If there is the potential for a deceased person to be involved, for example, when dealing with matters of insurance or estate documents, you must use a hard-copy document because the person cannot respond to questions about intent to sign the document. The E-Sign Act also makes it such that eviction notices, court orders and other imperative orders require a physical signature to be effective.
Signing your life away has never been enjoyable, but you have to admit that with the advent of these new technologies, processes such as purchasing property or navigating legal matters have become much quicker.
Of course, you should read every document you sign in its entirety – no matter how you sign – and be vigilant to make sure good security is in place every time.
Kayla Matthews writes about marketing innovation and business solutions for Inc.com, Convince & Convert and WeWork. You can read more posts on her blog, Productivity Theory.
Original aricle: Six Simple Ways to Increase Legal Document Security