What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature, or e-signature, is a legal way to get consent or approval on electronic documents or forms. One of the most relied upon definitions of an electronic signature is “an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record…adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Electronic signatures can be used to replace handwritten signatures in virtually every personal or business process. Examples include contracts, application forms, new hire onboarding forms, nondisclosure agreements, vendor onboarding documents and RFPs, change authorizations, and government benefits enrollment forms.

Are electronic signatures in Adobe Sign legally binding?

Yes. Electronic signatures are legally valid and enforceable in nearly every industrialized country around the world, and even less-developed countries are beginning to enact e-signature laws. In 2000, the United States passed the ESIGN Act, making e-signatures legal for virtually all uses. In the European Union, the Electronic Identification and Trust Services Regulation (eIDAS) took effect in July 2016. Other countries have enacted similar laws as well. To learn more, visit Adobe’s e-signature legality page.

Are electronic signatures in Adobe Sign secure?

Yes. Adobe takes the security of your digital signing experiences very seriously. Adobe Sign is certified compliant with the world’s most rigorous security standards, such as ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type 2, and PCI DSS used in the payment card industry. It complies with a wide range of privacy regulations, including HIPAA, GLBA, and FERPA in the U.S.

Adobe Sign also employs Adobe Secure Product Lifecycle (SPLC) practices, a demanding set of over 1,000 specific security activities spanning software development practices, processes, and tools, and integrated into multiple stages of the product lifecycle.

Are electronic signatures allowed under University policy?

Before implementing electronic signatures, you must ensure you are in compliance with the OBFS Section 19.4.1 Electronic Signatures policy.

Are there any restrictions when using Adobe Sign with high risk or sensitive data?

High Risk data must not be sent through email. Sensitive data generally should not be sent through email as well. Because a document is typically sent via email to all signers once it is completed, you must use the mask field data option to protect form fields that may contain High Risk or Sensitive data. Alternatively, contact us to request completed documents to NOT be sent via email for your department.

In addition, Adobe Sign must not be used for the following types of High Risk data at this time. Please contact us if this is something you need.

  • Controlled Unclassified  Information (CUI)
  • Credit Card or Payment Card Industry (PCI) Information
  • Export Controlled Research  (ITAR, EAR)
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Data
  • Personal Health Information (PHI, HIPAA)

How do I create an electronic signature?

With Adobe Sign, recipients can electronically sign documents by typing or drawing their name on their computer or mobile device, or uploading an image of their signature. They can also use more advanced digital signatures that rely on certificate-based digital IDs to provide stronger signer authentication.

How do I get a document electronically signed?

Simply upload the document you want to get signed. Enter your recipients’ email addresses, and then drag and drop signature and form fields onto the page. Click Send and Adobe Sign will email signers a link to your document.

How do I electronically sign a document?

With Adobe Sign, it’s always free and easy. No downloads or sign-ups are ever needed. Just click the email link to open the document on a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. Tabs and simple instructions walk you through the process. When it’s time to sign, just enter your name in the signature box, upload an image of your signature, or sign using a mouse, finger, or stylus. Click Apply > Finish and you’re done. See more about how to sign using an electronic signature.

Are electronic signatures and digital signatures the same?

Online signatures, electronic signatures, or e-signatures refer broadly to any electronic process that indicates acceptance of an agreement or a record. The term “digital signature” is frequently used to refer to one specific type of electronic signature.

Typical e-signature solutions use common electronic authentication methods to verify signer identity, such as an email address, a corporate ID, or a phone PIN. Multifactor authentication is used when increased security is needed. The best e-signature solutions demonstrate proof of signing using a secure process that includes an audit trail along with the final document. 

Digital signatures use a specific type of electronic signature. They use a certificate-based digital ID to authenticate signer identity and demonstrate proof of signing by binding each signature to the document with encryption. Validation is done through trusted certificate authorities (CAs) or trust service providers (TSPs). Additional rules and approvals are required prior to adopting true digital signatures. Specifically, the Illinois Electronic Commerce Security Act provides the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) with exclusive authority to specify the policies and procedures for the issuance and use of digital signatures by State Agencies. The Certificate Policy (CP) and the Certification Practices Statement (CPS) are CMS’s written description of the policies and procedures for the issuance and use of digital signatures. If you require the increased security of a cryptographically signed digital signature, please contact the AITS Service Desk for assistance with this process.

Signature types are linked with signature laws and regulatory requirements. Learn how they’re used to help create legally binding electronic signature processes.

What document formats does Adobe Sign support for electronic signatures?

Adobe Sign lets you upload a wide range of document types when you request signatures from others or build reusable templates. They include the following: 

  • PDF and Adobe PDF (.pdf) 
  • Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx) 
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls and .xlsx) 
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt and .pptx) 
  • WordPerfect (.wp) 
  • Text (.txt) 
  • Rich Text (.rtf) 
  • Graphics (.tif, .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .bmp, and .png) 
  • Web (.htm or .html)