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Digital Signatures - an explanation

To ensure that no one can forge your electronic signature, digital signatures make use of public key techniques, using algorithms such as DSA and RSA (the latter being the most common implementation).Digital signatures provide the highest levels of data integrity, since any tampering after signing invalidates the signature. They also provide unforgeable origin authentication, since they are based on the sender’s private signing key, and authenticated by the public verifying key. Note that in most PKI systems today, two key pairs are generated for each user – one pair for encryption/decryption and the other for signing/verification. This allows the administrator to keep backup copies of users’ encryption keys in case those keys are lost or the employee leaves the company and data encrypted with those keys needs to be recovered. The signing keys, however, never leave the possession of the user (they are never backed up), since they are intended to be as personal – and inaccessible to others - as the user’s physical signature. This is the only way we can ensure non-repudiation, since unless the keys are compromised in some way (i.e. the token on which they are stored is lost or stolen) the user can never claim that someone else signed on his or her behalf.