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Four Things to Consider for E-Signature Security in the Cloud
Striking the right balance to manage risk while ensuring maximum adoption
Jul. 7, 2014 08:45 AM
As the number of companies adopting cloud-based solutions continues to increase, security remains top of mind for vendors, companies and their customers. Organizations of all types and sizes are opting for cloud e-signatures for many reasons including speed-to-market, agility and a lower total cost of ownership. What organizations concerned with cloud security may not know is that all e-signature solutions are not created equal; enterprise-class cloud e-signatures enable security that is beyond simply passing a security audit or obtaining certification. There are four areas organizations should keep in mind when considering SaaS e-signatures.
1. Data Protection
In order to demonstrate that the organization has adequate controls for data protection, including technology and processes, the e-signature service host should meet the strictest certification standards like Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2, which reflects that the organization has adequate controls for data protection, including technology and processes.
The good news is that cloud computing has matured over the years and now offers trustworthy infrastructure solutions with stringent security protocols in place. However, the infrastructure used not only needs to ensure high availability, but also that the data is securely backed up and is protected against unauthorized access. The e-signature provider should be leveraging a mature, trusted and certified cloud infrastructure solution such as Amazon Web Services rather than relying on in-house servers. Finally, when evaluating an e-signature vendor, it's important to ask what security protocols and controls are in place to ensure it is keeping data safe and secure.
2. Strong Identification, Authentication & Attribution
3. Tamper-Evident E-Signatures
In order to ensure these controls are properly in place, digital signature technology should be applied at each signature location, creating a digital fingerprint of the document (called a hash) that can be used at any point to verify the integrity of the electronic record. This verification should take place in the document rather than sending the use to the vendor's website to validate the signature. Since e-signatures are only as good as the security that protects them, it's important that any attempt to tamper with any part of the document, for example adding or deleting words or replacing pages, should be visible. An enterprise-class e-signature solution should demonstrate this tampering by invalidating all the signature areas within the document.
4. Detailed Evidence Through an Embedded Audit Trail
Organizations should have access to this data without having to depend on a vendor or its systems for access. This type of vendor independence is a concern for many organizations looking at cloud applications and gives users peace of mind that their valuable business records will remain in their control for as long as their retention policies require. An embedded audit trail means your e-signed records will work seamlessly with your content management systems or your chosen system of record.
When it comes to electronic signatures, taking a multi-pronged approach will ensure the highest level of security for documents and data that pass through a cloud e-signature solution. At the same time, it's important to choose an enterprise-class e-signature solution that offers additional security measures like embedding all data associated with the transaction into the document, reliably reproducing that data as evidence in the event of a dispute and enabling the reduction of risk around non-compliance. Ultimately, this multilayer approach to cloud e-signature security will foster customer confidence and protect an organization's reputation.
As organizations ponder these security features and requirements, it is highly recommended that they apply a level of controls and safeguards comparable to the paper process. Some organizations have a tendency to believe that putting a process online requires stricter security, however security and usability can at times be opposing forces. Organizations must strike the right balance so to manage risk while ensuring maximum adoption.
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