What is the role of XAdES in qualified electronic signatures?


Signicat recently outlined the role xAdES can play in ensuring qualified electronic signatures can be legally binding.

In today’s digital age, the role of XML Advanced Electronic Signature (XAdES) in the realm of qualified electronic signatures is vital, the firm outlined. As companies increasingly transition to electronic processes, having full security controls, compliant with EU regulations, becomes paramount. These controls need to ensure all transactions are secure, and any signature used cannot be altered without the owner’s awareness.

Enter XAdES, a technical application of an output file format for electronic signatures. It’s essentially a method for storing electronic signature results. XAdES is a structured XML file format with specific rules for storing signature information, including the signer’s details, the original document and its contents, the electronic signature applied, timestamps, and other crucial data.

According to Signicat, XAdES is just one of several formats for storing electronic signatures. Other examples include CMS Advanced Electronic Signatures (CAdES) and PDF Advanced Electronic Signatures (PAdES), both of which are used for advanced and qualified digital signatures. Being a European ETSI standard (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), XAdES is internationally recognised, offering a range of benefits over proprietary formats, thanks to its wide acceptability across countries.

A distinct advantage of XAdES is that its electronic signatures can remain valid for extended periods, making them legally binding under the eIDAS regulation (Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services), under EU law. They provide undeniable proof of complete signature verification. Additional benefits of this XML format include long-term validation support, detailed status of the certificate, documentation of all events related to the signature process, and independence from the trust service provider (TSP) used.

Contrastingly, PAdES also serves as a file format, similar to XAdES, but with the added visual representation and PDF encoding. While PAdES files can be viewed by anyone with a basic PDF viewer, only specific viewers like Adobe Reader can validate and view the signature. An XML format like XAdES is more suited for extracting and embedding information into business systems. Some TSPs, like Signicat, convert XAdES files to PAdES for ease of viewing.

When properly coded, XAdES can be used as a qualified electronic signature, offering the highest level of security in court settings due to identity verification and tracking of all signature events and changes. This is why XAdES and PAdES are commonly used formats for implementing electronic signatures in trust service providers’ solutions like Signicat.

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