Digital Signatures vs. Electronic Signatures: Understanding the Difference

NYC-based boutique law firm Pardalis & Nohavicka brings the latest legal updates from the world of real estate. Pardalis & Nohavicka handles an eclectic array of matters, representing individuals and business owners in civil litigation, criminal cases and business transactions, currently litigating and representing clients throughout the United States and around the world. 

In today’s digital landscape, signatures play a crucial role in validating documents and transactions. However, the terms digital signatures and electronic signatures are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion. While both digital signatures and electronic signatures serve the purpose of signing documents online, they operate using distinct technologies and offer different levels of security and authenticity.

Definition and Technology

Electronic signatures encompass a broad range of methods for signing documents online. These can include typed names, checkboxes, and even scanned physical signatures. On the other hand, digital signatures use cryptographic technology to ensure the authenticity and integrity of a document.

Authentication and Identity

Electronic signatures prioritize capturing consent and intention to sign. They may not offer advanced identity verification. Meanwhile, digital signatures focus on verifying the identity of the signer through cryptographic methods, thus enhancing security.

Security Levels

Digital signatures offer a higher level of security due to their use of encryption techniques. They are tamper-evident, making any alterations to the document apparent. Electronic signatures, while legally binding, might be less secure in terms of preventing unauthorized modifications.

Compliance and Regulation

Digital signatures are subject to specific legal frameworks, such as eIDAS in the European Union and the U.S. ESIGN Act. Electronic signatures, however, adhere to broader legal principles surrounding contract validity.


Digital signatures involve a more intricate process of generating key pairs, issuing certificates, and using encryption algorithms, while electronic signatures are generally simpler and easier to implement.

Use Cases

Digital signatures are often preferred for high-stakes documents that require a high level of security, like legal contracts and financial agreements. Meanwhile, electronic signatures are suitable for day-to-day transactions and approvals.

Verification Process

Digital signatures require the verification of the signer’s identity through a Certificate Authority (CA) or a trusted third party. Often, electronic signatures will not require such elaborate verification.

Tamper Evidence

Due to the cryptographic hashes they use, digital signatures provide robust evidence of tampering. However, this feature can be limited in electronic signatures.

Long-Term Validity

Digital signatures are often equipped with mechanisms to ensure their validity over a longer period, whereas electronic signatures might be subject to changes in technology that could impact their future verifiability.


The distinction between digital signatures and electronic signatures lies in the underlying technology, security levels, and legal implications. Choosing between these two depends on the specific requirements of your document, the level of security needed, and the legal framework you operate under.


John Pak

John Pak serves as the Real Estate Chair at the Law Offices of Pardalis & Nohavicka. He is a transactional attorney specializing in acquisitions, dispositions and leasing.  A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, he received his BA in Political Science from New York University.  Prior to joining PN Lawyers, John owned his own private law practice for 15 years and a title company for 6 years.

Taso Pardilis

Taso Pardalis is a founding partner of the Law Offices of Pardalis & Nohavicka, a leading full- service NYC law firm with offices in Manhattan, Queens and WeWork. Taso may be a well-known attorney with many cases making headlines in major media outlets, but at heart, he is a true entrepreneur that believes in supporting the small business community. His areas of concentration are: Intellectual Property, Trademarks, Corporate, Business Law and Real Estate Law.

Eliza Theiss

Eliza Theiss

Eliza Theiss is a senior writer reporting real estate trends in the US. Her work has been cited by CBS News, Curbed, The Los Angeles Times, and Forbes among others. With an academic background in journalism, Eliza has been covering real estate since 2012. Before joining PropertyShark, Eliza was an associate editor at Multi-Housing News and Commercial Property Executive. Eliza writes for both PropertyShark and CommercialEdge. Reach her at [email protected]