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Definition: electronic signature

The electronic equivalent of a handwritten signature. There is more to it than pasting a graphic of a signature into a text document. Electronic signature software binds a signature, or other mark, to a specific document. Just as experts can detect a paper contract that was altered after it was signed, electronic signature software can detect the alteration of an electronically signed file any time in the future. CIC (www.cic.com) and Silanis Technology (www.silanis.com) are pioneers of electronic signature technology, which has proven especially relevant in the financial, insurance and real estate industries.

More than a Digital Signature
An electronic signature is often confused with a "digital signature," because it uses digital signature technology for detection alteration. An electronic signature also requires user authentication such as a digital certificate, smart card or biometric method.

In June 2000, the U.S. government passed the E-sign bill, which gives electronic signatures the same legality as handwritten ones. See ESIGN Act, digital signature, digital certificate and biometrics.