What is a Digital Signature Certificate & How to Get a DSC?

What is a Digital Signature Certificate and How to get a DSC

What is a Digital Signature Certificate?

A digital signature is a mathematical scheme that validates the integrity or authenticity of a given digital document or digital message. Digital signature certificates are the electronic or digital equivalent of paper certificates. Digital signature certificates validate your digital signature and for affixing digital signatures to e-documents digital signature certificates are required. Generally certificates are used to prove the identity of a person for particular purpose like driving license or passport or pan card or others. Similarly digital signature certificates are used to prove the identity of the person digitally to avail information or services on the internet and to sign certain documents digitally.

What are the types of Digital Signature Certificates?

There are three types of digital signature certificates depending on the validation of identity and type of use. They are:

Class I DSC – Individuals get it for validating the email identification of the users and in situations where risk is minimal and here the signature is stored in software.

Class II DSC – Business organizations or individuals use this digital signature certificate to validate the information given by the subscriber in the application against the information available in a trusted consumer database and in other such situations where security risk is moderate. In this case a hardware cryptographic device is used for storing the signature.

Class III DSC – This digital certificate is directly issued by the certifying authority and it is required that the person applying for DSC must be present at the certifying authority’s premises and prove his/her identity in front of the authority and the security risk involved in this case is very high. In this case also a hardware cryptographic device is used for storing the signature.

How to get a Digital Signature?

A licensed authority also called as Certification Authority (CA) that has been granted the license to issue digital signature certificates by the Government of India can issue digital signature certificate under the Information Technology Act 2000. You should pay a specified fee and submit certain documents for obtaining DSC from CA. The e-KYC documents will fetch your DSC on the same day from CA. The documents are:

  • Self-attested PAN card as identity proof.
  • Voter ID card or driving license or passport or latest utility bill as address proof.

The Necessity of Digital Signature Certificates

  • For e-filing of the income tax returns by any individual, the Government of India has made it mandatory to affix digital signatures to the income tax returns documents. For affixing the digital signature one must have digital signature certificates issued by licensed certification authority.
  • In addition, Ministry of Corporate Affairs has set the mandatory guidelines for the companies directing them to file all reports, applications and forms using a digital signature only and this again requires a digital signature certificate.
  • For GST also a company must verify its GST application by affixing a digital signature using digital signature certificate in order to get registered for GST.
  • These days many Government procedures, filling different applications, amendments and forms require digital signatures made by using digital signature certificates.

Benefits of Digital Signature Certificates

  • Saves Money & Time: As there is no need of physical presence you can digitally sign your PDF files and other documents using DSC anywhere & anytime. You need not sign your paper documents and then scan them to send them across through internet if you follow the above given option. You can save the money which would otherwise be spent on printing and scanning the document. You can also go green by saving paper.
  • Secured Data: The digitally signed documents are tamper proof as the digital signatures are secured with a private key and public key and they cannot be edited after digitally signing the document.
  • Authentic: Digitally signed documents are authentic and the receiver can be completely sure about the sender’s identity and integrity. The receiver can easily execute the information in the document without worrying about the document being forged.

What is the Validity of Digital Signature Certificates?

The digital signature certificates in India issued by licensed certifying authority approved by Ministry of Information & Technology are valid in India as per the ‘Information Technology Act 2000’. The DSC’s come with an explicit starting date & explicit expiration date. Usually the expiration time for standard digital signature certificates issued by CA will be from 1 year to 2 years. The digital signature certificates are managed by Certificate Revocation List (CRL) based on expiration date. An Indian national can have two DSC’s, one for his personal identification and another one for official identification.