DigiCert QuoVadis

News and Events

Electronic Signatures Changing the Face of Business
20 May 2000

Electronic documents are one step closer to replacing their paper counterparts. A year after Bermuda legislated its Electronic Transactions Act which gives electronic signatures the same legal backing as written signatures, the US Congress has passed its own “E-SIGN” bill.

Both the House of Representatives (426-4) and the Senate (87-0) voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. President Clinton has said he will sign the bill, which is expected to take force on October 1. Most US states already had some sort of electronic signature bill, but the Federal statute establishes a uniform, national standard.

Advocates argue that electronic signatures will save time and money for both consumers and businesses, allowing them to conduct transactions and filings completely online. It is expected that digital signatures will rapidly become the norm for business contracts, government filings, legal documents, and certain kinds of loans.

In the past, most e-commerce businesses were still required by law to have a real written signature on most agreements – which sometimes added weeks to the process – now those contracts can be signed immediately using a digital signature. QuoVadis CEO Tony Nagel describes “It creates tremendous efficiency because people and businesses can now enter contractual arrangements without having to walk across town, fly thousands of miles for a meeting, or courier reams of paper back and forth.”

QuoVadis vice-president Stephen Davidson continued “The fact that America has so actively committed itself to electronic signatures has large ramifications for Bermuda. The types of e-commerce companies that Bermuda seeks to attract – such as B2B exchanges and financial services companies – are among the most enthusiastic supporters of digital signatures. Bermuda already has the enabling legislation – and a world-class digital Certificate Authority (CA) in development – to pick up this business. We believe that Bermuda has a clear e-commerce advantage over other offshore jurisdictions.”

QuoVadis is currently developing a digital CA – which is the most popular enabler for electronic signatures – in Bermuda. QuoVadis will supply digital certificates to individuals, as well as to businesses for their clients, employees, and partners worldwide. By using a Bermuda-based CA, users will be able to strengthen their link to Bermuda’s regulatory, fiscal, and legal environment.

Paul Hellmers, CEO of Centre Solutions, said “Like the Internet, within a short timeframe, digital signatures will be part of all our daily lives. While most of the international companies in Bermuda rely on the ‘human touch,’ we are excited by the opportunities that digital signatures provide us to derive new efficiencies and to build new global business models.”

Most browser and email programs (including those of Microsoft and Netscape) already have digital signature capabilities, and new business uses are appearing every day. The technology behind it all, which is called PKI or public key infrastructure, has several components:

  • Cryptography: The science of transforming clear, meaningful information into an enciphered, unintelligible form using a mathematical algorithm and a key. PKI uses strong encryption levels that are considered “computationally infeasible” to hack;

  • Digital Signature: The digital signature is not really a signature, but a data element that uses cryptography to allow the recipient of a message or transaction to verify both the content and sender;

  • Digital Certificate: A data element issued by a Certificate Authority to vouch for an individual’s identity, as well as carry their public key (used to read the digital signature); and

  • Certificate Authority: The trusted third party that verifies and registers users, as well as issues, distributes, and revokes digital certificates in a secure environment.

    PKI helps engender trust in Internet commerce by providing authentication of electronic users, integrity of data, confidentiality, and non-repudiation of content.

    About QuoVadis
    QuoVadis Limited is the first offshore Commercial Certificate Authority worldwide. Based in Bermuda, QuoVadis provides digital certificates to offshore-based entities, as well as their global networks of employees, business partners, and clients. QuoVadis was founded in 1999 with developmental funding from the e-VentureCentre incubator (a joint venture of the Centre Group – part of the Zurich Financial Services Group – and Paragon Bermuda).