With the health crisis and its restrictions having greatly disrupted economic activities, companies have favoured solutions that facilitate the digital transition, such as electronic archiving, time stamping or electronic stamping.
In this blog post, we will look at the electronic seal, its advantages and the contributions of the blockchain to facilitate the certification of digital exchanges between different actors.
Whether for the management of documents with probative value such as invoices, commercial or supplier contracts, the contributions of the electronic seal are considerable.
What is the electronic seal?
The electronic seal is a cryptographic mechanism that makes it possible to attest that a legal person (company, organisation or institution) is the originator of a document and that certifies the integrity of this document by affixing a digital imprint to it.
The electronic seal was introduced with eIDAS and, more specifically, by Article 3 of the Regulation which defines the electronic seal as a set of " data in electronic form, which are attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form to guarantee the origin and integrity of the latter ".
In other words, the electronic stamp is the digital equivalent of the corporate stamp that certifies the origin and reliability of data.
Security levels of the electronic seal
Like the electronic signature, the electronic seal has four levels of security as set out in the eIDAS regulation:
- The "simple" level: this signature is qualified as simple and has the counterpart of having a low level of security since it does not require an audit by a competent and independent third party and, above all, "does not guarantee the non-repudiation of the signed document" (source: ANSSI guide on eIDAS).
- The advanced level: unlike the "simple" level, the advanced level must provide guarantees in the identification of the signatory (with, for example, the signature with confirmation of a code received by SMS).
- Advanced level based on a qualified certificate: in addition to the requirements of the advanced seal, the advanced level based on a qualified certificate "must be audited by a competent and independent third party".
- The qualified level: this is the highest level of signature! The signed document is based on a certificate issued by a trusted service provider, authorised to issue this certification.
At this stage, while distributed registries are recognised in the EU regulation, the Blockchain is not officially designated but it is likely that this will change with eIDAS v2 which is expected by the end of this year.
What are the differences with the electronic signature?
Although the signature and the electronic seal share similarities, whether in their function - the affixing of a digital fingerprint to attest to the origin of a document and certify its integrity - or in their acceptance - eIDAS gives them European legal recognition - these two concepts do, however, have some dissimilarities.
Thus, as we stated in the introduction, electronic seals and electronic signatures concern different actors. While the former certifies the exchange of documents between legal entities, the latter is concerned with natural persons.
Moreover, unlike the electronic signature, the electronic seal :
- Does not require direct action by the signatory to verify the signed document. In the case of electronic signature, the recipient must indicate his or her awareness of the document he or she is signing by signing it on receipt. The electronic seal has no such obligation.
- Can be performed on large volumes of data. For example, a company wishing to certify a large volume of invoices via accounting software can do so in a few clicks, without necessarily consulting each document.
For this reason, electronic seals are very practical for large organisations that wish to automate time-consuming business processes.
What are the cases of use of the electronic seal?
Since the electronic seal concerns companies and their legal representatives, the business uses it covers will concern purchasing, financial and legal departments as well as executive teams.
Let's look at some examples of documents that can benefit from the digital seal:
- Invoices: electronic stamping of invoices allows them to be certified, thus greatly simplifying audit activities
- Commercial/supplier contracts can benefit from electronic stamps to secure the commercial relationship
- Estimates: to protect against possible disputes due to incorrect invoicing
- Intellectual property documents: to protect your inventions / innovations
The electronic seal thus meets multiple and varied use cases. Its main advantage lies in the savings made in validation/verification procedures which can be time-consuming if the documents concerned are not digitised...
While players offering digital trust services - including electronic signatures and electronic seals - exist and solve the above use cases, the use of blockchain technology brings a significant advantage in terms of :
- Security: falsifying a document or data on a blockchain is virtually impossible
- Speed: with over 30k certifications per hour and a fully customisable anchoring frequency (between 1 and 24 anchors per day), no other technology can match these standards.
- Simplicity: with our certification API, companies can certify documents directly from their business software.
Let's take a closer look.
How does the electronic seal work with a trusted blockchain?
The Archipels platform uses the immutability and durability properties of Blockchain technology to certify and verify data and documents with evidential value for various use cases such as KYC verification.
With Archipels Certify, you can meet all your needs:
- Simplified time-stamping: time-stamp large volumes of data and documents on Archipels' trusted blockchain and keep track of any action to protect yourself from litigation.
- Electronic signature: digitally sign any document with probative value to facilitate your administrative processes
- Anchor on the blockchain: anchor any data and documents on the Archipels blockchain to securely store your digital assets
The advantage of blockchain technology is a simplified process which can be illustrated as follows:
As we can see, when a company certifies a document or data with the Archipels platform, it generates a digital fingerprint that will be anchored in the Archipels trust blockchain. This document becomes verifiable at any time for any actor who wishes to ensure the integrity and origin of a document thanks to our Archipels Verify solution.
Electronic stamps and blockchain to create a trusted environment
Among all the digital trust services governed by eIDAS, the electronic seal addresses concrete B2B issues that create an environment of trust with all the players in the digital ecosystem.
If it can secure commercial relations between companies, the electronic seal based on the use of distributed registers such as the Blockchain can benefit from the unique properties of immutability, robustness and durability to speed up, secure and simplify certification.
If you would like to discuss the possibilities offered by Archipels Certify with our sales team, please contact us.