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digital signatures in word

can anyone give a very beginners guide to how using digital signatures to sign word documents, is any better and proves more integrity than physically signing a document, or scanning a copy of your signature and inserting it into each word document. What benefits do dig signatures to to prevent users fraudulently signing a document impersonating another's signature? Is there no opportunity to fraudulently digital sign a word document? as there would be physically faking a signature?

And what costs are involved with digital signatures, do you pay per signature, or is it a one off payment and you can sign as many documents as you chose?
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pma111
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pma111
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Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016DeveloperCommented:
Here is a good, short, beginners-level description of a digital signature and an electronic signature (which is the term used for what you called "scanning a copy of your signature and inserting it into each word document" in your question), as well as the difference between the two:

Electronic and Digital Signature FAQ

What is a digital signature?
      
A digital signature (standard electronic signature) takes the concept of traditional paper-based signing and turns it into an electronic "fingerprint.” This "fingerprint,” or coded message, is unique to both the document and the signer and binds both of them together. Digital signatures ensures the authenticity of the signer. Any changes made to the document after it has been signed invalidate the signature, thereby protecting against signature forgery and information tampering. As such, digital signatures help organizations sustain signer authenticity, accountability, data integrity and the non-repudiation of signed electronic documents and forms.

What is an electronic signature?
      
An electronic signature can be as basic as a typed name or a digitized image of a handwritten signature. Consequently, e-signatures are very problematic with regards to maintaining integrity and security, as nothing prevents one individual from typing another individual's name. Due to this reality, an electronic signature that does not incorporate additional measures of security (the way digital signatures do, as described above) is considered an insecure way of signing documentation.

What is the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?
      
A digital signature, often referred to as advanced or standard electronic signature, falls into a sub-group of electronic signatures that provides the highest levels of security and universal acceptance. Digital signatures are  based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, and guarantee signer identity and intent, data integrity, and the non-repudiation of signed documents. The digital signature cannot be copied, tampered with or altered. In addition, because digital signatures are based on standard PKI technology, they can be validated by anyone without the need for proprietary verification software. On the other hand, an electronic signature is a proprietary format (there is no standard for electronic signatures) that may be a digitized image of a handwritten signature, a symbol, voiceprint, etc., used to identify the author(s) of an electronic message. An electronic signature is vulnerable to copying and tampering, and invites forgery. In many cases, electronic signatures are not legally binding and will require proprietary software to validate the e-signature.

The above comes from this website:
http://www.arx.com/digital-signatures-faq

And here's a link there to a lot more info about digital signatures, including some videos:
http://www.arx.com/resources/digital-signature-demo

In terms of cost, that same site discusses it here:
http://www.arx.com/digital-signature/cost

But that is a very vendor-centric approach, so take it with a grain of salt and do more homework on it. For example, Adobe offers a product called Adobe EchoSign:
https://www.echosign.adobe.com/en/how-it-works/faqs.html

Notice the last section in the FAQs above:

How much does it cost?

Depending on usage, EchoSign has account options ranging from free for the occasional user to $29.95 per user per month. The number of documents sent by each paid user is limited by our Fair Use Policy. Abuse of Fair Use is defined as: usage in any given month that exceeds more than three (3) times the average level of usage of the same category of Adobe’s Paid Account Users over that thirty (30) day period. As a general guideline a single user sending over 50 documents/month is considered to be a violation of the fair use policy. If you will send a significantly greater volume please contact us.

Regards, Joe
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pma111Author Commented:
the problem is the letters have to be delivered in hard copy, in an envelope by post. so unless they are emailed it looks like dig signatures are not an option.
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Joe Winograd, EE MVE 2015&2016DeveloperCommented:
You could do both. Use a digital signature on the files (Word and/or PDF docs) and use an electronic signature (scanned image of the signature) for hard copy purposes. Btw, to keep the signature image from overlaying the surrounding text, take a look at the article, Signature Image with Transparent Background. Regards, Joe
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