Best practices for establishing an e-signature audit trail

10 Aug

While transacting through digital platforms the involved parties have concerns regarding the security, legality, and integrity of the data used/shared through the software.

Such doubts, if come true, cost companies/organizations/government officials to lose confidence, lose customers’ loyalty/interests, and lost but not least, causing a disturbance in the evolution and adoption of the digital economy and technologically developed society.

To avoid this scenario and to cut the risk of mistrust, Digital Signature Solutions are deployed. These solutions store data with the utmost security and share them only to the concerned parties with the consent of every entity involved in the transaction. Pieces of evidence or notifications are shared with every party involved through SMS, emails, or phone calls to assure them and completion of the transaction. Here, the element of transparency is preserved and reliability is built as every party involved knows the latest update on the process.

However, to avoid fraudulent activities and breach of security, some organizations act as trusted third parties that collect all the electronic transactions that occurred during the signing process to start an audit trail. 

Let us understand what does the audit trail means and what information it holds.

What is an audit trail?

As we have seen above, an audit trail is a document that holds all the data (process evidence in an electronic form) that is generated throughout the signing process and stored.

This data serves as a piece of evidence that can be used to ensure data integrity is maintained during the signing process to avoid any type of manipulation. This evidence can be used as a valid legal proof in the court of law.

Along with the audit trail, here is one more concept one should know.

What is a Time-Stamping Authority?

A Time Stamping Authority (TSA) is a third-party certification services provider that provides timestamping solutions to verify the date and time on which an electronic transaction/process took place. Time stamping proves and verifies that a particular data/set of information/electronic evidence existed before a certain time & date and acknowledges that now of these data is modified/changed/edited since then.

When any online/web-based transactions are performed, it is important to know the time and date during which they took place. TSA records and verifies the time and date of these transactions as a vital proof or set of evidence to ensure the integrity and validity of the source of the data. This data is found by TSA from the backend of the web operations (performed through mobile devices or any computer devices).

In a practical world, a person who has signed a document may claim otherwise. The reason can be anything. If such issues arise during the traditional document signing process, it becomes difficult and time taking to find the truth. However, with esignature solutions, tracking, validating, and securing the process has become possible. The electronic process is much safer and faster.

Let Us Understand Audit Trail For Electronic Signature

Audit Trail, as seen above, Is the process of authenticating the electronic documentary evidence of the transaction. When we talk about esignature and using electronic documents, it is mandatory to conduct an Audit Trail. It becomes statutory for every signatory (who is signing with esignature solutions) for the protection and safety of the document, esignature, and the data.

Let us understand it from one example. Suppose, A and B make electronic signatures on a document online, complete data regarding this documentation is saved safely to protect the concerned parties. Hence, every eSignature issuing entity has to make sure it is in compliance with the Audit Trail measures. However, it is a real challenge to keep this process simpler and friendly.

Security Procedure of Audit Trail

While performing the Audit Trail, the Certifying Authority considers the following details.

  • Recording booting and shut down of the system.
  • Record the beginning and shutdown of CA's (Certifying Authority) application.
  • Manipulation of passwords, PKI.
  • Changes to the DSC policy.
  • Log in log off attempts.
  • Unverified attempts to access, handle, open system files’.
  • Generating unauthorized private keys. Creation/cancellation/modification of DSC to generate/update/edit/remove the existing private keys, etc.

Read the blog- What is the Purpose of Using Digital Signing in the Banking Sector?

While the Certifying Authority takes care of the above details, the eSignature solutions offering authority takes care of the following:

  • Date and Time of the procedure & every signature.
  • Individual/entity's entity that has made the esignature.

Important Features of Audit Trail

As per the regulations, an Audit Trail verifies documents for its complete security and safety. It considers only those documents which are e-signed. Audit Trails play an important role especially in eSignature Solution for banking and healthcare. The important features include:

Automation

Automation is the key to accuracy and safety as it removes human errors to a great extent. Hence, it is recommended that every electronic evidence/data has to be backed up automatically.

Security

The Audit Trail has to be secured and in legal compliance. It should not be accessible to anybody other than the concerned person.

Time Proof

A timestamp is mandatory on every Audit Trail. The timezone must be clear.

Tracing

Tracing sufficient evidence of the identity of the individual editing or deleting the document. Storing these details forever.

Here Are a Few Best Practices for Using Digital Signature Solutions

Digital signature in banking and finance matters plays a crucial role especially in helping CPAs that have to file tax returns and insurance agencies that aim to provide better customer experience. Every industry wants to speed up the operational process, reduce cost, boost security, and add to productivity. However, they spend most of their time handling paperwork, documenting them, and tossing them from one table to another for signatures. All this can be avoided with esignature software features. Online Signature Pricing is a cost-effective way of performing a signature on electronic documents.

Additionally, esignatures are easy to use. Here are the four most effective practices that can be followed to make the most of your electronic signing process.

  1. Check for security safeguards

Legal backing, technologically upgraded process, cloud storage facility, ability to track the progress of the document signing, and streamlined nature of esignatures makes them an ideal option when you are looking for something that is legally compliant and secure.

Plus, nobody wants to spend time in printing, scanning, and mailing docs which might end up in the wrong person's hands. An electronic signature is a solution to this. As a solution seeker, you should also consider all the industry-specific rules that might influence your decision making and how the solution works.

Read the blog- 5 Ways E-Signature Software Helps the Banking Sector in 2020

For example, if you are a healthcare organization that needs to gather esignatures for documents having patient data, you are suggested to consider a solution that can meet HIPAA compliances. Ideal Digital Signature Solutions 

  1. Use templates from day one

Go for a solution that has saved templates that you can use with some modifications and can be shared with the concerned signatories. The basic content can be kept as it is and subject-specific changes can be made. What you can do is every time you make a new document/agreement, you can create a template that can be used later. 

  1. Work as digitally as possible

You want to deploy a solution that can be integrated totally with the existing work systems. E-signature helps in digitization of the workflow, electronic documents can be shared online through email or Google Drive. Signatures made on these inline documents get connected to the signer through a cipher which is unique and cannot be changed. Digitization is crucial for transparency and security. Digital Signature Solutions will take you one ebay closer to the evolution.

Conclusion:

Audit Trail is the way of making sure that all the procedure conducted during the process of signing a document is valid, legal, secure and all the electronic pieces of evidence are checked for accuracy and legal compatibility. These pieces of evidence are then saved/stored securely for future references. Audit trails cannot be edited or removed.

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