Digital signature

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A digital signature or digital signature scheme is a mathematical scheme for demonstrating the authenticity of a digital message or document. A valid digital signature gives a recipient reason to believe that the message was created by a known sender, and that it was not altered in transit. Digital signatures are commonly used for software distribution, financial transactions, and in other cases where it is important to detect forgery or tampering.

Digital signatures are often used to implement electronic signatures, a broader term that refers to any electronic data that carries the intent of a signature,[1] but not all electronic signatures use digital signatures.[2][3][4] In some countries, including the United States, India, and members of the European Union, electronic signatures have legal significance. However, laws concerning electronic signatures do not always make clear whether they are digital cryptographic signatures in the sense used here, leaving the legal definition, and so their importance, somewhat confused.

Digital signatures employ a type of asymmetric cryptography. For messages sent through a nonsecure channel, a properly implemented digital signature gives the receiver reason to believe the message was sent by the claimed sender. Digital signatures are equivalent to traditional handwritten signatures in many respects; properly implemented digital signatures are more difficult to forge than the handwritten type. Digital signature schemes in the sense used here are cryptographically based, and must be implemented properly to be effective. Digital signatures can also provide non-repudiation, meaning that the signer cannot successfully claim they did not sign a message, while also claiming their private key remains secret; further, some non-repudiation schemes offer a time stamp for the digital signature, so that even if the private key is exposed, the signature is valid nonetheless. Digitally signed messages may be anything representable as a bitstring: examples include electronic mail, contracts, or a message sent via some other cryptographic protocol.


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