An electronic time stamp is data in electronic form which binds other data in electronic form to a particular time establishing evidence that the latter data existed at that time.
For example, a signatory can use an electronic time stamp to bind a signed document to a particular date and time and prove in the future that the signed document existed at this particular date and time.
As part of the eIDAS Regulation, a time stamp can be qualified. Following stricter requirements laid down in eIDAS, a qualified electronic time stamp enjoys the presumption of the accuracy of the date and the time it indicates and the integrity of the data (e.g. signed document) to which the date and time are bound.
When a party needs to rely on signed electronic data (e.g. a signed document), it is very often important that it can verify:
– The integrity of the signed data;
– The authenticity of the signed data.
The requirements for the validation of qualified electronic signatures are, in particular, described in Article 32 of the eIDAS Regulation. In this context,
– Integrity means that no modification has been made to the signed data after it has been signed;
– Authenticity means that the signature is supported by a qualified certificate identifying the signatory, and that only the signatory can produce the signature.
A summary and non-exhaustive overview of the steps involved in the validation process for qualified electronic signatures would be:
- The verification of the integrity of the data;
- The verification of the validity of the certificate;
- The verification of the qualified status of the certificate and;
- The verification if the signature was created by a qualified electronic signature creation device.
Finally, as numerous steps are involved in this validation process, the answer to a validation request can take the form of a validation report that contains the set of answers to the various verifications and steps involved during the validation process.
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