The need for social distancing and the fact that most office workers are now exclusively working from home, has led to profound changes in the business world. While the move to digital was already underway in many countries, the recent crisis has provided a new impetus. Many countries already had the underlying regulations and framework for digital identification and signing in place, and they are finding it easier to make the shift. Those that did not, are scrambling to catch up.
This article looks at how eIDAS qualified e-signatures can be a valuable tool in maintaining business continuity and some new (and old) challenges that remote working presents us with.
eIDAS electronic signatures for business continuity
Governments have rolled out stimulus packages aggregating to several trillion dollars. This alone illustrates how important it is to ensure that businesses don’t go under and can continue to pay their employees who are working from home. Existing loans are being restructured and extended because there is no other way. New contracts and other legal documents have to be negotiated, drawn up and signed remotely in order to ensure the smooth flow of capital across the global economy. Tools like eIDAS Qualified Electronic Signatures must be used to ensure that this happens in a legally binding and secure way.
The eIDAS regulation provides the bulk of the legal framework for electronic identification and trust services in the EU and will prove to be indispensable in this time of need. eIDAS mandates that electronic signatures be provided the same legal effect, admissibility and probative value as their handwritten counterparts. All EU member states have to recognize a Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) as a valid proof in a court of law.
The human and economic impact of the recent outbreak will be with us for some time. Social distancing and quarantines will help us save lives. Businesses must learn to operate remotely in this new reality. And they must do so while facing the challenge of short-term confusion and the resulting disruption, as well as emergent security threats like phishing attacks targeting panic-stricken citizens.
Mario Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank, said that “While many face a loss of life, a great many more face a loss of livelihood.” Protecting livelihoods is important because that too has an impact on the well-being of our citizens. Business continuity in such a scenario is essential and even the most important decisions must now be taken remotely. Contracts, terms sheets, bank guarantees, and other important documents now need to be signed digitally and QES might be the only option that is deemed secure enough for such use cases.
It is not just big corporations that have a use case for these digital tools. Retail banking clients may also feel the pinch of falling asset prices and may need to sign new paperwork. Electronic identification and eSignatures will be crucial here as well. No one should have to travel outside to get their paperwork done.
Mario Draghi stated in the Financial Times that “Employment and unemployment subsidies and the postponement of taxes are important steps that have already been introduced by many governments.” Providing liquidity support in this manner to citizens is crucial and that also requires banks and financial institutions to be operating effectively using digital identification and signing technologies.
The challenge of critical mass
One of the major hurdles for mass adoption of digital identities and electronic signatures was the lack of critical mass. Some departments or private companies felt that not enough people were using digital tools yet so it was not worth the time and resources to implement a system that can make full use of such tools.
That is certainly changing now, and the problem has flipped on its head. There is more than enough of a critical mass of users lining up to use electronic IDs, eSignatures, digital transactions, virtual workflow and other tools to transact and do business online. In fact, we are entering a situation where there is excessive strain being placed on the cyber networks which are reeling under the pressure of a many-fold increase in traffic. Even EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Thierry Breton spoke about the need to manage this tsunami of new web traffic.
Which is why the need is for solutions that are resource-light, scalable, cost effective and legally acceptable. In the EU, qualified trust service providers have a crucial role to play in providing qualified electronic signing services to local businesses.
The challenge of security and trust
The recent crisis has also pushed some people into the digital domain who were not ready for it. IBM, Kaspersky and other security firms have found that malicious attackers are now using coronavirus news as bait to lure non-techie users into installing malware. As an unprecedented number of people work from home and use digital mediums to perform their daily tasks, this has undoubtedly led to some security concerns. This fact only reinforces the need for using secure and high-grade digital identification systems. In the EU, the eIDAS framework provides industry leading mechanisms to local companies to ensure secure identification and access.
Qualified Electronic Signatures are a must for companies looking to provide a legally binding and secure method of doing business in a fully paperless world. They must be part of the Business Continuity Plans for all companies and especially banks and financial institutions.
More challenges to come
That is just the tip of the iceberg though. We face great challenges, but we are also armed with the most powerful tools to protect both lives and livelihoods. Like all crises before it, this too shall pass. We have the tools to stay at home and continue to add value to the global economy and keep the wheels turning. This would not have been possible two decades ago. But today with digital transactions, video conferencing, electronic identification, remote signing, etc., we can soldier on and continue to give it our best.
To learn more about eIDAS-compliant QES and discover how to deliver remote digital signatures for business continuity visit nCipher Security and Cryptomathic and register for our webinar: “Fully digital, trusted, and open for business – ensuring continuity of service with eIDAS remote signatures” on May 19 at 1300 CET. Register now
This blog was originally published on the Cryptomathic website