Things to know about Electronic Seal and authenticity of business documents

Electronic Seal

What is the Electronic Seal and what is it for?

Digital transformation requires new working methods, abandoning traditional physical tools in favor of innovative ones, such as the Electronic Seal.

What is the Electronic Seal? It is the digital version of the traditional ink stamp. It certifies the legal value of digital documents and guarantees their integrity and authenticity, protecting them from alteration. The eIDAS Regulation defines it as “data in electronic form, which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form to ensure the latter’s origin and integrity“. So it is a sort of virtual stamp that guarantees the correctness of the origin of the data in the IT document on which it is affixed.

According to EU Regulation No. 910/2014 on digital identity, there are two types of electronic seals:

  • Advanced Electronic Seal (AdESeal): according to art. 36 it is uniquely linked to the creator of the seal; it is capable of identifying the creator of the seal; it uses data that the creator of the seal can, with a high level of confidence under its control; it allows any subsequent modification of the same to be detectable;
  • Qualified Electronic Seal (QeSeal): it is an advanced electronic seal, which has the four aforementioned characteristics and is created using a device with a certificate. Qualified certificates of electronic seals must meet the requirements set out in Annex III of EU Regulation No. 910/2014. In addition, according to art. 35, a QeSeal based on a qualified certificate issued in one Member State is recognized in all other Member States. To obtain one, individuals can apply to an elDAS Certification Authority authorized to issue seals.

The Qualified Electronic Seal is equivalent to a qualified electronic signature. However, unlike the latter, it does not refer to a natural person, but to a legal person.

What does it mean? It means that a signature allows us to identify a person by name, surname, tax code, etc. Instead, a seal makes it possible to trace a legal entity through, for example, a VAT number or tax code, without reference to the natural person who materially uses the credentials to generate the seal.

By using the Qualified Electronic Seal (for example on electronic invoices, official notifications, certifications and other electronic documents), legal entities protect themselves from the risk of a document issued by them being falsified or altered.

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