What Is the Difference Between a Digital Certificate and a Digital Signature?

Posted by Brooke Lester on Feb 8, 2018 8:46 AM

What Is the Difference Between a Digital Certificate and a Digital Signature?

When it comes to protecting your EDI system, you want to know that there are built-in features that will keep your investment safe from threats. You also want the assurance that these features will work seamlessly without human intervention. 

Two such security measures are digital certificates and digital signatures. Read on to learn what the difference is between the two, how they are used, and how they protect your EDI system.

What Is a Digital Certificate?

A good way to think of a digital certificate is that it is a form of identification. When you go to the airport, you are asked to present your passport or driver’s license so that the official behind the counter can verify your identity. In a similar way, a digital certificate substantiates the identity of the certificate’s owner.

How does a digital certificate prove that its owner is indeed a particular organization? It contains information that identifies and traces the owner. A digital certificate is issued by a certification authority, and it has the authority’s contact information so that the recipient can check that the certificate is authentic and valid. The certification authority can revoke the certificate at any time, and it is designed to be tamper-resistant as well as hard to counterfeit.

What Is a Digital Signature?

While a digital certificate verifies an organization’s identity, a digital signature ensures that the information being transmitted is authentic. Think of it like your signature on a check; the recipient knows the document is genuine because you have approved it.

A digital signature also guarantees that the information has not been altered and that no one has tampered with it. This is quite important when it comes to your EDI system; you do not want your transactions to be subject to interference. A digital signature also means that you cannot repudiate information; once you have sent it, there is no taking it back. 

What Is the Difference Between a Digital Certificate and a Digital Signature?

How Digital Certificates and Signatures Are Used in Your EDI System

When you send and receive information between trading partners through your EDI system, you want the assurance that the data you are sending and receiving is accurate and no unauthorized third party has modified it in any way. You also want to know that the organization that is sending information is indeed the authentic sender.

As part of the transaction, the sender transmits its digital certificate. That way, the recipient knows that the transaction is coming from Organization A (and there is no chance that Organization B has sent this data). Your VAN registers the digital certificates of your trading partners, so you cannot receive transactions from companies with which you do not do business.

Your EDI system will send its digital signature when you receive information. The digital signature proves that the sender sent the message and that its contents are accurate. There is no way to deny it.

An EDI system is an investment that enables your business. Security threats can derail your EDI system, which is why digital signatures and certificates are both vital. To learn more about EDI security, contact us.

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