Many users use the terms digital signature and digital certificate interchangeably. However, despite the fact that both refer to an identification and authentication system, the reality is that they are not the same. To clarify your doubts, in this article we talk about the difference between a digital signature and a digital certificate .
What is the digital signature?
The digital signature is a cryptographic mechanism that consists of a series of characters that are added to the end of a document or file. This digital signature is used with three main objectives:
- Identify the person who issued the message or signed the document.
- Guarantee the validity of the document and that it has not been modified.
- Prevent the signer from denying having signed the document.
In short, the digital signature is a secure method for signing documents (for example, to sign a PDF ) that is based on cryptography and information encryption.
What is the digital certificate?
For its part, the digital certificate is an electronic document or file that serves to identify a person on the Internet. To do this, this document associates a series of data to a specific person, which must be authenticated by a Certifying Authority. An example of a digital certificate would be the electronic DNI.
Digital certificates can be installed in the browser itself, or in other devices prepared to create electronic signatures, for example cryptographic cards or USBs or cryptographic servers.
When the digital certificate is approved by a certifying authority, a qualified digital signature is obtained that can be used in official documents or any other type, and that has high levels of security.
How are digital signature and digital certificate different?
Both have aspects in common, mainly that they are two mechanisms used to carry out operations or procedures on the Internet quickly and safely. However, there are also differences between the two.
The main difference between the digital signature and the digital certificate is that the certificate is used to identify a person on the network before many official bodies. For example, if you have an electronic DNI, you can carry out procedures with it at the Tax Agency or at the Social Security headquarters.
The electronic certificate allows its holder to sign documents or files electronically, that is, to make use of a secure digital signature. However, to make a digital or electronic signature it is not necessary to have a digital certificate approved by a certification authority.
In other words, the digital certificate allows you to make digital signatures on the Internet, but to make digital signatures on the Internet it is not essential to have a digital certificate.
In short, the differences between digital certificate and digital signature are summarized in the following:
- The digital certificate is generated through a certification authority that associates the identity of a person to the certificate. The process requires a process of identification, authentication and validation. For its part, the digital signature is a code that is created when signing the document, which allows it to be encrypted at the source and decrypted at the destination.
- The digital certificate identifies its holder, while the digital signature only identifies the signer of a specific document or file.
As we can see, the difference between a digital signature and a digital certificate can be difficult to explain and understand at first. The key is the scope: while the digital signature refers to specific documents or files, the digital certificate allows a person to be identified on the internet and to carry out procedures at the Tax Agency, at the headquarters of the Social Security, at the DGT, at the municipal census, in the Mercantile Registry and a long etcetera.
The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.