SA-based solution shines

The national lockdown in South Africa has seen many companies quickly adjust to remote working. But the fast and forced nature of the transition to work from home meant that stumbling blocks – like a heavy reliance on traditional ‘wet-ink’ paper-based document signing – have quickly became apparent.

With very few employees owning scanner-printers, the inability to print hardcopy documents to sign and scan them undoubtedly resulted in stalled workflows, inefficiencies, and the haphazard use of non-compliant solutions available online.

This can have disastrous consequences in the context of sensitive documents and compliance, according to Herman Kriel, GM of CyberTech. “A signature acts as a proof of identity and binds an individual to a document’s intent. If there’s any chance that the signature could potentially be forged or tampered with, the document could be invalidated, and may not be classified as legally-binding”.

‘Digital’ vs ‘Electronic’ signatures

While often used interchangeably, electronic and digital signatures are different – and carry different legal weights.

An ‘electronic signature’ refers to any mark or symbol that matches an individual to a document – and includes examples like simply typing your name at the end of an email or scanning your handwritten signature and pasting it into a document. As such, electronic signatures are easily forged and can’t be authenticated.

‘Digital signatures’ or ‘advanced electronic signatures’ on the other hand, refer to signatures generated through a cryptographic process, with the cryptographic keys stored on a tamper-proof cryptographic hardware device. These signatures protect the integrity of the entire document, and thus the authenticity of its contents as well as the actual signature.

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECTA) allows for the use of ‘electronic signatures’ for many basic transactions but requires advanced electronic signatures – or digital signatures – for other more sensitive legally binding agreements.

Local solution ticks all the boxes

With thousands of digital signature solutions available across the world, choosing the most suitable one might seem difficult. But, Kriel says, we needn’t look beyond our doorstep.

“There’s a South African success story to be told behind a locally-developed digital signature solution, Signiflow. It’s not only scalable and affordable, and suitable for SMEs, large corporates, and government entities – but it’s completely compliant with local legislation requirements”.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in demand for this particular solution during lockdown, specifically because they’ve done all the hard work of researching the local legislative requirements pertaining to the acceptance of digitally signed documents in court and ensuring that this is applied to their solution. They have expanded worldwide which is testament to the quality of this solution, and an added bonus is that customers pay in Rands – so their license fees are predictable. It’s been a lifesaver for many of our customers”.

Signiflow also offers a workflow component to ensure transparency throughout the workflow chain, and can be completely integrated into many of the ERP systems. Original, digitally signed documents are safely and securely stored either inside this system or passed back to the ERP solution and can be accessed in seconds when required. Signiflow is also available in Cloud and On-Premise options which makes the setup and configuration a quick and easy process.

Other key features include:

  • All signatures are created using digital X.509 standard for public key certificates.
  • Full auditable X.509 trusted AATL embedment’s for every signer in the workflow.
  • Embedded record of the state of the certificate at the time of signing.
  • Timestamping applied through a trusted Timestamping Authority (TSA).
  • Multi-factor authentication and AD, LDAP, OAuth, SAML and other options available.
  • Embedded auditable record of the geographical location of signatories.
  • Audit logs written and sealed into the document using steganography.

Post-lockdown predictions

While many companies are slowly allowing employees to return to the office, there remains broad consensus that working from home will become more common in future. Companies are also starting to realise that they can work smarter and much safer, while cutting out on harmful practices such as fraud through document tampering. Kriel predicts that post-lockdown, there will continue to be a consistent uptake of digital signature solutions like Signiflow.

“One silver lining of the pandemic is that digital transformation has been rapidly accelerated for local businesses. They now know that they can easily work remotely – but that they need to get the right tools to do so safely and securely. A high-quality digital signature solution ensures that companies can be rest assured that all important documents are securely signed, stored, and cryptographically protected” he concludes.