What is a timestamp and how does it work?

What is a timestamp?

A timestamp is a service by an accredited Certifier, called Time Stamp Authority (TSA), which allows you to associate certain date and time to a digital document. These date and time are legally valid.

The Italian Digital Administration Code (CAD) defines a time validation as the “result of the IT procedure by which a date and time that can be enforced against third parties is attributed to one or more IT documents“.

Therefore, a timestamp allows you to establish the existence of an IT document starting from a certain moment. It also guarantees its validity over time. In addition, it certifies that the signatory’s ID was valid at the time of signing. However, its does not affect the content of the document and does not change the signature.

How is a time stamp created?

Timestamps are the result of a specific computer procedure which generates a sequence of characters and the so-called hash digital fingerprint.

The hash fingerprint derives from an algorithm that produces as output a combination of letters and numbers which length vary. This alphanumeric string is unique for each document and is called ‘digest’.

The hash fingerprint is like a real fingeprint and therefore identifies the digital document uniquely. If the content of the document is altered, even in a small part, the hash value changes too.

What information does the timestamp contain?

It must contain the following information:

  • Identification of the issuer;
  • Timestamp serial number;
  • Timestamp subscription algorithm;
  • Identification of the timestamp verification key certificate;
  • Time reference of the timestamp generation;
  • Identification of the hash function used to generate the imprint of the timestamped document;
  • Document imprint value.

The timestamp is available in different formats:

  • TSR (Time Stamp Response): the time stamp is in a separate file;
  • M7M: contains both the evidence of the timestamp (the TSR file) and the validated document;
  • TSD (Time Stamped Data): the time stamp is associated to the document;
  • PDF: it is the most common format. This is due to the possibility of incorporating both the digital signature and the timestamp.

The timestamp can be affixed to files with no digital signature, thus conferring legal validity and a definite temporal location. But it can also be affixed to those which are digitally signed to certify that they have a specific form at a precise moment. Therefore, if the certificate of a digital signature expires or is revoked, the timestamp would still certify that the digital signature is prior to expiration or revocation.

The affixing of the time stamp extends the temporal validity of the document beyond the duration of the digital signature (20 years). 

When is the timestamp necessary?

The affixing of a time stamp gives an electronic document a ‘certain date’ with probative value. In other words, it allows to associate the document with a legally certain date and time that can be enforced against third parties.

For this, timestamps are useful when it is necessary to have a legally valid date. For example:

  • Credit issuance requests
  • Medium-long term loans for businesses
  • Advance payment requests on supplies / exports
  • Risk assessment document
  • Contracts, orders and invoices
  • Bank documents and public deeds

The 10 advantages of document timestamping

The digital validation process is simple, safe, effective and efficient. Here are the ten advantages of using the time stamp:

  1. Costs and time reduction linked to papers processing;
  2. No more cost of stamps and seals;
  3. Process optimization;
  4. Reduction of errors;
  5. Significant contribution to the Green Economy;
  6. Greater security, transparency and legal value compared to paper;
  7. Proving the existence of a document at a given moment;
  8. The date and time of the timestamp are legally enforceable against third parties;
  9. Possibility of extending the validity of an digital document over time, beyond the expiration of the digital signature certificate;
  10. Time-validationg a document is simple: all you need is your computer.

How does the Namirial timestamp work?

Timestamping a digital document requires you to send the imprint of the document (or the document itself) to the Certifying Body. The marking system receives the imprint (or the document) and adds the date and time to it, creating a dated imprint.

The time of Namirial timestamps refers to the Coordinated Universal Time and is constantly updated with the Italian INRiM (National Institute of Meteorological Research) and the GPS system.

A digitally signed and time-stamped document has a higher legal value than a paper document with a handwritten signature.

Namirial solutions for timestamping

Before affixing a timestamp you need to purchase a batch of them.

Here are the solutions by Namirial:

100 timestamps: € 23.00 + VAT
500 timestamps: € 90.00 + VAT
1000 timestamps: € 160.00 + VAT
5000 timestamps: € 750.00 + VAT

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