It all started when the Ministry of Company Affairs launched a prestigious e-Governance programme named MCA21, under which e-forms are notifiedand statutory filing has been made compulsory. In order to authenticate these e-forms, a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) issued by the TCS Company is required. A Digital Signature Certificate used for e-forms has the same legal recognition and validity as that of a handwritten signature.
The introduction of Digital Signature Certificates have simplified the verification process for many important documents and made it much faster and simpler. Just like a passport, a DSC provides information about the sender, is forgery resistant, and is a highly secured document.
We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Digital Signature Certificates. For example, did you know that there are three different levels of Digital Signature Certificates? We’ll tell you about the different features of Digital Signature Certificates, how to validate them, and about their future as well.
Understanding Digital Signature Certificates
The introduction of Digital Signature Certificates have simplified the verification process for many important documents and made online transactions much faster. A DSC contains the name of a certificate holder, an expiration date, a unique serial number, a copy of the certificate holder’s public key (used for encrypting messages) and the digital signature of the certificate-issuing authority (which helps the recipient verify the authenticity of the certificate).
In order to guarantee the authenticity of a DSC, it is digitally signed by a root certificate belonging to a trusted certificate authority. Different operating systems and browsers maintain a list of trusted CA root certificates so that they can easily verify the digital certificates. In fact, when a public key infrastructure (PKI) is deployed internally, digital certificates can be self-signed too.
A public key infrastructure (PKI) is a set of public encryption keys which enables users and computers to securely exchange data over the internet and verifies the identity of the other party. Any form of sensitive data exchanged over the internet is reliant on PKI for security.
The Different Classes of Digital Signature Certificates
Did you know that there are three different types of Digital Signature Certificates?
- Class 1 Certificate: These certificates are issued to individuals or private subscribers. These certificates confirm if the user’s name and e-mail address are genuine and approved by the certifying authorities’ database.
- Class 2 Certificate: These certificates are issued to both business personnel and individuals. These certificates confirm that the information in the application provided by the subscriber does not conflict with the information in popular consumer databases.
- Class 3 Certificate: This certificate is issued to individuals as well as organisations. These are high assurance certificates, primarily intended for e-commerce applications and are only issued when the individual physically appears before the certifying authorities.
Usage of Digital Signature Certificates
The three different categories of signatures are used by companies and individuals for:
|Where is it used?||Type of signature||Who uses it?|
|Income Tax and Return on Capital filing||(n) 21 DSC Class-II signatures||Individuals and companies|
|To file e-tenders for organisations like Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), Indian Railways E-Procurement System (IREPS), Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and others.
For signing contract notes
|(n) Pro DSC Class-III signatures||Companies
Stock broking companies
|For e-ticket booking||(n) Rail DSC signatures||IRCTC agents|
|This is a 128 bit SSL certificate for websites. It is a class III certificate. This certificate is mandatorily required by websites to authenticate the identity of individuals and carry out secure online transactions||(n) Serv Signatures||Websites having live IP addresses|
Where can you apply for a DSC and what about the charges?
Any company or firm can apply for a DSC for their online transactions through a licensed Certifying Authority (CA) which will issue the digital signature. There is a list of licensed CAs who have been granted authority (authorised under Section 24 of the Indian IT-Act 2000) to issue these certificates by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. You can check the official MCA website for the complete list of licensed CAs
Business houses that exceed revenues of more than Rs. 60 lakhs need to mandatorily use a DSC while filing returns.
The charges for a DSC varies depending on the level of security and the business type. Different CA agencies determine their charges based on various factors. It generally takes around three to seven days to get hold of a DSC by any of the applicant firms.
Where can you use DSC?
Generally speaking, individuals can use a DSC for the following purposes:
- To prove ownership of a domain name and establish an SSL/TSL encrypted session between a website and the online monetary transaction
- For signing web forms, filing an Income Tax Return, e-tendering documents and to access various membership-based websites automatically without entering a username or password
- For secure email and web-based transactions
- For proving authorship of a code and retaining integrity of a software program, when you are developing a code
How to validate a DSC?
As we all know, a digital signature certificate needs to be validated by the recipient. So follow these simple steps to validate a digital certificate:
- Open your digital certificate in PDF format version 9.2 and above
- Open the Preferences dialogue box on the PDF file
- Under Categories tab, select Signatures
- For identities and certificates, click on the ‘More’ tab
- Select the option Trusted Certificates on the left
- Select a certificate from the list, and click edit trust
- Under the Trust tab, make sure all the boxes are tick marked
- Click OK, close the digital certificate and trusted certificate settings dialogue box, and then click OK in the Preferences dialogue box
Follow these steps and you’ll be ready for some serious digital document signing!
What’s the future of DSC?
Digital Signatures are legally accepted in a Court of Law. They have completely revolutionised the online transaction and validation process. DSCs are becoming more important as more and more companies are adopting this secure and faster means of online identity verification.
We hope you now have a better idea about Digital Signature Certificates!