The document signing process is critical because it ensures the creation of legally binding obligations between the signing parties.

The sales contract appears to be legalized; have all parties signed it? Is it the most recent and reviewed version? Is it possible to prove that the document was not altered before you signed it? Is it possible to prove that the document you received matches the one you saw earlier?

Although many online document signing solutions offer secure electronic signatures, they are not the same as digital signatures. A scanned image of a handwritten signature can be used as an electronic signature, but a digital signature uses mathematical algorithms to prove its authenticity.

There are numerous digital signing services, such as DocuSign and Echosign, that can assist with the signing of legal documents.

All of these document signing platforms enable users to sign documents securely while also storing the signed documents in the cloud.

Because you must rely on a third party to store your documents, these services are more appealing to businesses than to average users.

There is no need to rely on third parties for timestamping or storing signatures with Blockchain Document Signing.

By developing a blockchain document signing platform, it may be possible to replace the third party and prevent anyone from going back and tracking records in the event of manipulation or disputes.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand the impact of blockchain technology on the document signing process.

Let us first discuss the current system’s challenges and why it needs to be transformed with blockchain.

Problems with the current document signing system

PDFs were created to allow businesses and individuals to share richly formatted documents. As Adobe and other companies added security features to PDF files, it became an international standard in 2008.

Password protection, digital signatures, and encryption were among the PDF’s security features. PDF now includes digital signatures to verify who created and encrypted it.

It is not difficult to circumvent the protection of PDF files, depending on the hashgraph algorithm used. According to Schellekens, a PDF expert at iText Software in Ghent, Belgium, a PDF document’s content and date/time stamp can be changed.

The PDF specification, according to Schellekens, includes the concept of an ID-tuple, which includes timestamps for when the file was created and updated.

However, the protection only applies to the entire document and not to its individual parts. Assume that a document must be signed by multiple parties. Because not all certificate authorities save their private keys with equal vigilance, it is impossible to know who modified the document, when, and in what order.

A digital document should be signed serially, one at a time. However, the PDF specification does not allow for a document to be signed in parallel by multiple parties and then combined.

By creating timestamps and allowing multiple signatures, blockchain can enter the document signing industry. Documents can be managed securely by approved parties by using private keys between the signer and the recipient.

We will now look at why blockchain is useful for document signing.

Why Should You Use Blockchain for Document Signing?

Blockchain technology enables the linking of a collection of records known as blocks into a chain that is secure and encrypted against tampering.

Blockchain employs the hash concept, which functions as a fingerprint for each block.

A hash is generated for each block that is added to the chain. Any tampering with a block changes the hash address.

As a result, all blocks that contain the previous hash are rendered invalid.

Now, let’s look at how blockchain fits into document signing.

The hash value for the original version of a PDF file is calculated and stored in the blockchain.

Authorized parties can validate the authenticity of copies of the document by comparing the hash of their version to the hash of the original version stored in the blockchain.

In the case of multiple copies with different signatures, parties can examine the timestamps associated with the document’s metadata using the blockchain document signing platform.

Blockchain can record an exact time stamp/date as well as the identity of the person who signed the document. As a result, multiple parties may be able to sign a document using a legally and securely binding process.

The Blockchain Document Signing Platform works as follows.

Participants in the blockchain document signing ecosystem include:

• Users will use the platform to manage and sign contracts.
• Admin: Access to user and analytics reports.

Step 1: Users register for the platform.
Sign up for the blockchain document signing platform if you want to sign documents or have them signed by multiple parties.

When registering on the platform, they must provide their government-issued identification. When signing the document, a hash corresponding to the identity information is stored on the blockchain to verify the users.

Users can sign in after signing up to use the platform for document signing without the involvement of third parties, which is required to build trust in the system.

Step 2: Users upload the document to the platform.
Users can upload the document that needs to be signed by the signer to the platform.

Documents can be uploaded as .csv, .doc, .docx, .jpg, .pdf, .png, .pptx, .txt, .xls, and .xlsx, there are almost no limitations.

They can also store the signed documents in order to manage the files and save the record in the blockchain.

Every action performed on the platform is a blockchain transaction that includes a document hash and the actor’s identity, allowing users to track the history of any action performed on the platform. This promotes transparency and accountability because users can see who did what and when making the platform a safe and trustworthy place for users to conduct business and collaborate with others.

A hash is a fixed-length string of characters produced by passing a document through an encryption algorithm. The resulting hash is unique to the original document, so even minor changes will result in a completely different hash. By storing a document’s hash on the blockchain, users can check the document’s integrity and authenticity at any time by running it through the same hash function and comparing the resulting hash to the one stored on the blockchain. If the two hashes match, it means the document hasn’t been modified since it was hashed and added to the blockchain. If the hashes do not match, the document has most likely been tampered with and may not be trustworthy.

All the data is encrypted in transit, and ultimately the data and files are stored in the platform’s database. The database uses masking and steganography (data obfuscation) to make it highly secure. A unidirectional SHA256* file and a hash of the record, along with a unique ID and private key, are stored on the blockchain. All in all, it’s a comprehensive and highly secure signature system.

SHA-256*: This hashing algorithm is a variant of the SHA2 hashing algorithm, recommended and approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It generates a 256-bit hash value. Even if it’s 30% slower than the previous algorithms, it’s more complicated, thus, it’s more secure.

Step 3: Users enter the recipients who must sign documents.

Users can include all signatories (recipients) who will be signing the documents.

They are free to add as many signers as they want.

Signers would receive a signing request in their emails, and they would need to log in to the platform using the unique document fingerprint they received in their mailbox.

When the signers sign the document, users are notified, and the transaction associated with the signing is saved on the blockchain.

Signers simply press one button to sign or reject a document with a reason.
Transactions saved for document signing would keep a history of signing records that could not be changed or deleted.

Users can also include spectators who will receive the documents as Cc in their emails.

Step 4: Users create the signature and sign the document.

Users who want the documents signed or signees who have to sign the documents simply press the button to sign or reject; there is no need to edit the document or put a written signature on it!

Every time a user signs a document, the transaction is saved on the blockchain to ensure the signature’s authenticity.

The use of blockchain as a backend component ensures that the records stored are immutable and traceable.

As a result, the signing records can be traced back at any time to resolve disputes or conflicts. The platform can generate and download validity certificates, enabling third-party QR code scanning.

Step 5: Authenticity and Validation of Documents

After all the entities have signed the document, the platform allows any user with the original document file or its fingerprint (hash) to verify the document’s authenticity.

The original document can be uploaded to the blockchain document signing platform’s document validator. The document is validated if the hash after uploading the original document matches the hash generated at the time of signing.

If the hash values do not match, it is possible that the signed document has been tampered with or altered.

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