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Chapter 9. Securing Your Internet Transa... > What Are Digital Signatures?

What Are Digital Signatures?

A digital signature does not involve taking your handwritten signature and scanning it into your computer; however, it is similar. A digital signature is unique to you, like a fingerprint or a handwritten signature is. A digital signature is a seal put on a digital piece of information (such as a file or an e-mail message). As an example, a digital signature can be attached to an electronic transaction (such as an e-mail) to let the recipient of the transaction know with a high degree of certainty that it was really you who sent it. Let's take a look at what makes digital signatures work.

Digital signatures are a byproduct of public key cryptography. We have been discussing public key cryptography as it relates to PGP, SSL, and digital certificates. In all cases, public key cryptography remains the same. It allows security and privacy of information exchanges by allowing you to possess two keys: a public key and a private key. Bob distributes the public key to anybody who will be communicating with him, such as Alice, and he keeps the private key to himself. Alice, in turn, uses the public key to encrypt data that is destined for Bob. When Bob gets the encrypted data, only he can decrypt it by using his private key. Nobody else has his private key, and security is maintained because the public key does not jeopardize the private key.


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