Electronic Signature: The Complete Guide for Beginners


Find out how an electronic signature can simplify your online transactions and why it is an integral part of the digital world. You will learn why it is legally recognized and how it can help secure your digital documents.

In today's rapidly evolving digital era, where business transactions, communication, and official procedures have significantly shifted to the online world, the need for

  • authentic,
  • secure,
  • and legally recognized

signatures is essential.

Electronic signatures are becoming a key tool.

Therefore, we can see that electronic signatures are not only a practical but also an economical and secure solution for today's businesses and individuals. These advantages, along with the ongoing digitization and the general transition to cloud technologies, make electronic signatures an integral part of our everyday lives.


What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a technological tool whose main function is to guarantee the authenticity and integrity of a document.

When choosing the type of electronic signature, it is important to consider the level of security that your transactions require. If you are working with sensitive documents or documents with high legal requirements, it may be more appropriate to use an enhanced or qualified electronic signature.

In recent years, electronic signatures have become a key part of the legal system of many countries, including Slovakia. The legal validity of electronic signatures is based on laws and regulations that determine when and how electronic signatures can be used.

In Slovakia and within the European Union, the use of online signatures is regulated by the eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services) directive. This directive unifies the legislation regarding online signatures in all EU member states and ensures that signatures are recognized across borders.

It is important to note that not all electronic signatures are equal in the eyes of the law. Qualified electronic signatures provide the highest level of legal protection and are considered equivalent to a handwritten signature in all legal contexts.

As an individual or business, it is crucial to understand these laws and how they affect your use of electronic signatures. Understanding the legal aspects will help you protect your interests and ensure that your electronic transactions comply with the law.

Legal validity of electronic signatures

Electronic signatures have become an integral part of digital communication and transactions in recent years. It is important to understand that the legal validity of electronic signatures is comparable in many aspects to the validity of traditional, handwritten signatures.

Basically, this means that if a document is signed with a valid electronic signature, it is legally binding and recognized just as if it had been signed by hand. The electronic signature thus proves the signatory's approval or consent to the content of the document, on a legally binding basis.

It is important to mention that there are certain exceptions and specific cases where the legal validity of electronic signatures may be limited or when handwritten signatures may be required. These cases may include, for example

  • certain real estate contracts,
  • some legal documents,
  • or in other specific situations according to the law.


Types of electronic signatures

Electronic signatures can be divided into three main categories: simple, advanced and qualified.

Each of these types has different levels of security and authentication:

  • Simple electronic signatures: These signatures are the simplest type of electronic signatures. They can be as simple as writing a name in an email, have no specific technical requirements and have a limited level of security.
  • Enhanced electronic signatures: These signatures provide a higher level of security. They are uniquely associated with the signer, which enables verification of the signer's identity. In addition, it detects any changes to the document after it is signed, which ensures the integrity of the document. Using an advanced electronic signature is sufficient for most signed documents.
  • Qualified electronic signatures: These signatures provide the highest level of security and authentication, but take more time to obtain and use than advanced or simple electronic signatures. They must be created by a qualified electronic signature creation facility and issued by a trusted service that is approved by the relevant national authority. Qualified electronic signatures are the only electronic signatures that have the same legal validity as handwritten signatures verified by a notary public. The use of qualified signatures is not necessary for most use cases.

Cross-border recognition

In today's globalized society, where business transactions and communication often take place across national borders, the recognition of electronic signatures at the international level is significant.

Electronic signatures are recognized throughout the European Union. This means that a document signed in one EU member state is also legally valid in other member states. This facilitates cross-border business transactions and enables people and organizations to work more efficiently and flexibly.

However, it is important to note that although electronic signature is recognized as such throughout the EU, the specific legal requirements and procedures may differ depending on specific national legislation. For example, in some cases it may be necessary to use a qualified electronic signature, which provides the highest level of security and is the only type of electronic signature that has the same legal validity as a handwritten signature.

Reliability of services

Trust services are a significant aspect in the electronic signature ecosystem. Their role is to provide secure and reliable electronic signature services that ensure the authentication of parties and the integrity of documents.

Trusted services must meet certain security and data protection requirements. For example, they must use secure systems and processes to create, manage and store electronic signatures and related data. They must also ensure the protection of users' personal data and comply with all relevant legal regulations in the field of data protection.

Trusted services also play an important role in creating qualified electronic signatures that provide the highest level of security and have the same legal validity as handwritten signatures. In order for a service to be considered a qualified trust service, it must be approved by the relevant national authority.

Why is an electronic signature important?

Electronic signatures have become an integral part of today's digital world. Their importance is reflected not only in legislation, but also in everyday business practices.

How do these signatures facilitate digital transformation and contribute to efficiency?

  • Speed: Electronic signatures significantly speed up the signing process. You can sign documents anywhere and anytime, without the need to print, mail or scan. This saves you time and allows you to complete transactions faster.
  • Costs: Electronic signatures save money by eliminating the need for printing, postal and courier services, storage and management of paper documents.
  • Security: Electronic signatures provide a higher level of security than traditional paper signatures. They are uniquely associated with the signer and guarantee the integrity of the document by making any changes after signing clearly visible.
  • Global acceptance: As we mentioned earlier, electronic signatures are recognized and legally valid throughout the European Union, facilitating cross-border business transactions.

The difference between handwritten and electronic signatures

When comparing handwritten signatures with electronic signatures, it is important to know the basic differences between them.

Although both types of signatures have legal validity, they have different characteristics and advantages:

  • Signing documents: A handwritten signature requires the physical presence of the signer and his signature on a paper document. An electronic signature, on the other hand, can be created and attached to a digital document anywhere and anytime, which brings great flexibility and convenience.
  • Speed of transactions: Electronic signatures enable faster and more efficient transactions as they eliminate the need for physical handling of documents and provide instant delivery.
  • Security: While handwritten signatures can be forged and are difficult to verify their authenticity, electronic signatures provide strong security and verification mechanisms. Encryption and timestamps ensure that the signature is uniquely associated with the signer and that the document has not been altered after signing.
  • Document storage and management: Handwritten signatures require physical document storage and management, which can be costly and time-consuming. Electronic signatures allow for easy digital storage and manipulation, making it easier to find and share documents.
  • Accessibility: Electronic signatures allow people with certain physical limitations, such as loss of motor skills, to sign documents without physical effort or assistance, which is often impossible with handwritten signatures.
  • Support for remote work: In today's world where remote work is becoming the norm, electronic signatures allow workers and customers to sign documents without the need for a face-to-face meeting.
  • Legal Traceability: Electronic signatures often include digital footprints such as IP addresses and time stamps that provide an additional layer of legal traceability.
  • Integration into company systems: Electronic signatures are easily integrated into existing digital systems and processes, such as document management systems, workflow automation and CRM platforms, which is not possible with handwritten signatures.
  • Protection against forgery: Electronic signatures are often protected by advanced cryptographic protocols that make forgery much more difficult, while handwritten signatures can be forged relatively easily.

How does an electronic signature work?

The technology behind the electronic signature is based on sophisticated cryptographic processes that ensure the authenticity, integrity and non-repudiation of signed documents.

Key aspects of this technology include:

  • Asymmetric cryptography: Electronic signatures use a technology called asymmetric cryptography. This technology uses a pair of keys - one private and one public. The private key is held by the signer and is used to create the signature, while the public key is available to everyone and can be used to verify the signature.
  • Hash functions: When creating an electronic signature, the document is first converted into a form called a hash, using a mathematical function known as a hash function. The hash represents a unique "print" of the document, which is then encrypted with the signer's private key.
  • Signature verification: When verifying an electronic signature, the encrypted hash is first decrypted with the signer's public key. A new hash is then created from the original document and compared to the decrypted hash. If these two values match, the signature is considered valid, meaning that the document has not been altered after it was signed.
  • Timestamps and certificates: Many electronic signature solutions also use timestamps and digital certificates issued by trusted third parties to provide an additional layer of verification and legal validity of electronic signatures.
  • Security: All these processes are designed to provide a high level of security. Private keys must be stored securely and never shared to prevent signature forgery.
  • Integration into existing systems: Many electronic signature solutions are designed to be easily integrated into existing systems and software, such as document management systems or CRM tools. This enables seamless use of electronic signatures without the need to change existing workflows.
  • Mobile accessibility: Since we live in the era of smartphones, many electronic signature providers offer solutions that are accessible and fully functional on mobile devices. This makes it possible to sign documents anywhere and anytime.
  • Multi-factor authentication: Some electronic signature systems use multi-factor authentication to provide an additional layer of security. This may include, for example, the use of SMS codes, biometric data or other authentication methods in addition to the signature itself.
  • Biometric data: Some e-signature solutions may collect biometric data, such as the speed and rhythm of typing a signature on a touch screen. This data can be used to further verify the authenticity of the signature.
  • Consistency and standardization: Thanks to electronic signature technology, it is possible to maintain consistent and standardized signature formats across the organization, which would be very difficult with handwritten signatures.

How to use an electronic signature in practice?

Practical tips and recommendations on how to effectively use electronic signatures:

  • Identifying documents to sign: The first step to effective use of electronic signatures is to identify the types of documents you regularly sign. It can be business contracts, invoices, internal documents at work or even private documents such as leases, insurance policies, etc.
  • Choosing an e-signature provider: There are many e-signature solutions on the market. Several factors such as security, cost, ease of use, integration options, and customer support are important to consider when choosing.
  • Signing documents: When signing documents with an electronic signature, it is important to follow certain procedures to make the signature valid and legally binding. This may include, for example, reading the entire document before signing, ensuring that the signature is placed in the correct place, or verifying that all sides of the document have been properly signed.
  • Document storage and management: After signing documents, it is important to store them securely and manage them properly. Electronic signatures often come with document management tools that allow easy searching, archiving, and sharing of signed documents.


Electronic signature for various types of documents

Electronic signatures can be used on a wide variety of documents, whether in work or personal life.

Electronic signing is most often used for:

  • Business contracts: Electronic signatures are ideal for business contracts such as supply contracts, sales of goods and services, license agreements, etc. They facilitate the process of concluding a contract by eliminating the need for a physical meeting and allowing documents to be signed quickly and securely online.
  • Employment contracts and other HR documents: Electronic signatures can also be very useful in HR. Employment contracts, data protection agreements, leave orders and other similar documents can be signed quickly and efficiently electronically.
  • Legal documents: Some legal documents, such as wills, powers of attorney and other legal contracts, can also be signed electronically. In some cases, specific legal requirements may need to be complied with, so it is important to consult legal counsel in such situations.
  • Private documents: Electronic signatures can also be useful in personal life. For example, leases, insurance contracts or even documents related to family matters can be signed electronically.
  • School and academic documents: Electronic signatures are often used to sign academic documents, such as study applications, certificates of study, etc. Administrative processes in educational institutions are thus accelerated and simplified.
  • Healthcare documents: Medical records, treatment consents, insurance claims and other healthcare documents can be signed electronically, speeding up the process and increasing patient safety and privacy.
  • Documents in real estate offices: Purchase contracts, rental contracts, mortgage loans and other documents related to real estate transactions are often signed electronically, which simplifies and speeds up the process of selling or renting real estate.
  • Customer service documents: Documents related to customer service, such as contracts, claim forms, warranty cards, can also be signed electronically.
  • Documents related to public administration: Various types of documents related to public administration, such as applications for government grants, registration forms, applications for licenses and other similar documents, can also be signed electronically.

How to get started with electronic signatures

Getting started with an electronic signature doesn't have to be difficult.

Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Choose an e-signature provider: There are many e-signature providers in the market. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to compare them and find the one that best suits your needs. When choosing a provider, you should consider price, features, security and ease of use.
  • Create an account: After choosing a provider, you will need to create an account. The process is usually simple and only requires basic information such as your name, email address and password.
  • Start using an electronic signature: You can start signing documents, send them to other people to sign, track the signing status and much more.
  • Learn and adapt: As with any new tool or technology, electronic signatures will take some time to learn and adapt. But don't worry, most providers have helpful guides and customer support to help you out.

You are one step away from the fastest electronic signature

Sign legally binding documents online anytime, anywhere.

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