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How to Select the E-signature Type that’s Right for Your Business

Electronic signatures have changed the way many businesses operate. E-signatures are faster, more efficient and potentially more secure than paper signatures – but reaping the benefits relies on selecting the type that’s right for your business.

Quick takeaways:

  • Rely on advanced and qualified e-signatures for legally binding documents
  • Biometric e-sign capabilities can add an additional layer of security
  • Kofax SignDoc makes it easy for your business to integrate the encryption and identity verification required for advanced and qualified e-signatures

The Five Types of E-Signatures + Advantages and Disadvantages

Ranging from simple to qualified, e-signatures vary according to the required authentication. Which method you choose ultimately depends on your business needs.

Standard e-signatures

A simple electronic signature is, as the name suggests, simple. They aren’t encrypted and don’t contain identification verification.

The basic e-signature is quick, and you’ve likely completed one many times. Here are a few examples:

  1. Scan a wet signature and then insert the image into a document
  2. Select a signature image and insert it into the document
  3. Type your name into a document in a signature font

It’s important to note that in each of these cases, the signature image is the same no matter who completed the document, and so the identity of the person is not confirmed. These types of signatures are susceptible to fraudulent activity.

A basic electronic signature is similar to a simple e-signature, but utilizes asymmetric cryptography so that changes made after signing can be detected. This method does not verify identity, and so remains subject to certain types of fraud.

Without identity attribution, both types of standard e-signatures may not be considered legally binding.

Best for:

  • Quick turnaround


  • Legal use cases
  • Documents where the identity verification is required

Advanced and qualified e-signatures

Although it differs by country, legally binding documents generally require that a document is signed by an identifiable person (authentication) and that person can’t credibly deny their identity (non-repudiation). Advanced and qualified e-signatures are designed to check these boxes.

An advanced electronic signature (AES) requires a two-factor authentication and is uniquely linked to the person signing. Any subsequent changes are detectable.

Here’s an example of how an advanced e-signature works: a person links their signing identity with a device, such as a phone. When they need to sign a document, they will need to verify their identity on the linked device with a code sent via text message or on an app.

While this method is secure, it assumes the person’s device is in their control, and so it is not impervious to fraudulent activity.

A qualified electronic signature is a type of AES that is created by a third-party Qualified Trusted Service Provider that offers user authentication and trusted certificates for signing. It provides the highest level of legal backing.

Because a third-party verifies the signer’s identity, this is the most secure method. It’s similar to having a signature witnessed in person, except the identity is authenticated by software.

Best for:

  • Legal contracts
  • Property transfers
  • Government documents

Both advanced and qualified e-signatures are suitable for legal documents; however, a qualified e-signature is the gold standard.

Biometric e-signature

A biometric electronic signature uses anatomic (e.g. fingerprints or iris) or behavioral traits (e.g. handwritten signatures or the rhythm of typing) to verify the identity of the signer. It provides real-time verification of the signature and is the most secure type of e-signature.

Kofax is Your E-signature Source

Businesses are increasingly looking to digitize their workflows with easy to use and cost-effective e-signatures. Kofax SignDoc is a leading e-signature tool.

Mitigate fraud with multi-factor authentication, digital certificates and signature biometrics. SignDoc enables organizations to collect basic, advanced, qualified and biometric signatures.

Technical specifications:

  • Basic e-signature uses the same server-side certificate for all users
  • Advanced e-signature uses individual certificates which can be provided on a USB token. Requires installation of the SignDoc device connector.
  • Qualified e-signatures require a Trusted Service Provider (TSP) certificate, via SignDoc’s TSP plugin interface
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