Audit Trails: 5 Key Elements of Ensuring Document Integrity with eSignatures

Document Integrity with eSignatures

For all intent and purposes, some inherent properties of any document remain the same regardless of the industry or department. Every document in a business workflow goes through a life cycle process. It starts with the creation. Some documents are stored for easy access, while others are discarded once their purpose is fulfilled. The ones categorized as obsolete are archived or destroyed. But ultimately, they are used to store and access information.

Documents in the workflow are reviewed, signed and shared among multiple people. Tracking them throughout their life cycle is the only way to ensure accountability and integrity, but how do you ensure accountability and integrity on a large scale? Digital Signatures solve this problem with advanced security features and reporting.

Digital signatures use advanced encryption and algorithms that meet the requirements of globally accepted standards and policies to bind them legally. At an enterprise level, documents go through many touchpoints before reaching the intended recipient. How do you ensure integrity when multiple touchpoints are involved?

About Document Integrity:

why document integrity matters

Document integrity assures that a document has not been altered or tampered with during its lifecycle. This assurance is not only essential for compliance but also for building trust among stakeholders. Whether they are contracts, invoices, or sensitive customer information, documents are the foundation of modern operations. Maintaining document integrity in workflow is a multifaceted challenge.

Documents pass through various hands, departments, and systems, making them susceptible to unauthorized changes, intentional or accidental. Any alteration, no matter how small, can have far reaching consequences, from legal disputes to damage to reputation.

Here are a few reasons why document integrity matters:

1. Compliance: Many industries are subject to stringent regulatory requirements that demand document integrity. Failing to comply can lead to hefty fines or legal action. Digital signatures such as Certinal eSignature offer extensive compliance requirements coverage, including HIPAA and 21 CFR Part 11.

2. Trust: Clients, partners, and customers rely on the integrity of documents. A breach of trust can impact the reputation and drive stakeholders away.

3. Efficiency of Operations: Document integrity ensures that decisions and transactions are based on accurate information. It streamlines workflows, reducing errors and delays.

4. Security of Information: Measures must be taken to protect documents against breaches and cybersecurity threats. This ensures the security of information.

Threats to Document Integrity:

The sheer volume of documents in a workflow can make tracking and maintaining changes daunting. The diversity of file formats and collaboration tools can introduce inconsistencies. Moreover, differing access permissions across teams can result in unauthorized alterations. The need for remote work and rapid information sharing adds complexity. These integrity challenges come from human negligence or digital security threats.

Human error is a significant threat to document integrity. Inadvertent alterations or omissions during data entry, copy-pasting errors, and accidental deletions can compromise the accuracy and completeness of documents. Employees may also need to handle sensitive data, unintentionally forwarding documents to the wrong recipients or failing to secure them properly.

Digital security threats loom large over document integrity. Unauthorized entities may alter or steal sensitive data, creating financial and reputational damage. Moreover, insider threats, where employees with access privileges misuse or leak data, pose a significant risk.

Regular security audits are essential to ensure integrity and build trust of the stakeholders. Audit trails in digital signatures add an extra layer of protection by monitoring document access and changes, helping detect and respond to security breaches promptly.

The 5 Key Elements of an Audit Trail

Audit Trails are chronological reports that record activities that affect a specific event; in the case of digitally signed documents, they record all the activities performed during transmission. Besides collecting event-level details, audit trails also record metadata information of documents and systems involved in the workflow.

1. Timestamps: Digital signatures record date and time information by default. Timestamping helps track the creation and modification time of a document. It cannot be changed once recorded and applied to a document. Tamper-evident cryptographic techniques secure timestamps from alteration or fraud.

2. User Identification and Interactions: User identification involves capturing user details when interacting with a document. This includes usernames, roles, and timestamps of their actions. Audit trails hold users answerable for any unauthorized or malicious changes. Accountability ensures users are responsible for their actions.

3. Document Information: Document information records details like file name, size, and format. It helps in tracking the document lifecycle and usage patterns. Any alterations of document information are recorded, making it easy to detect unauthorized changes.

4. Signature Information: Audit trails provide a comprehensive view of the signature’s characteristics and confirm the authenticity of digital signatures. Verification checks involve cryptographic methods to ensure the signature’s legitimacy.

5. Record Chain of Custody: Audit trials logs chain of custody of the document throughout its journey in the signing process. It provides an unbroken record, enhancing transparency and accountability. Audit trails track where and how documents are stored or transmitted, identifying vulnerabilities.

Conclusion:

While ensuring document workflow integrity, it is essential to maintain a record of all the events related to a digitally signed document. The scale and complexity of operations at an enterprise make it challenging to track all events and information.

Certinal ensures document integrity with eSignatures, by offering a comprehensive final audit report that captures all events of a digitally signed document in a workflow.

Certinal offers the most comprehensive coverage of security compliance, making Certinal eSignature a trusted digital signature solution for enterprises. Know more about the security compliance of Certinal eSignature. Request a Demo.

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Author
Lokjith is a marketing content writer, and he writes about eSignature technology to raise awareness and help enterprises make informed decisions. Before discovering the SaaS industry, he organized Offline Marketing campaigns campaigns. He has a master’s degree from the Institute of Management Technology, specializing in Marketing.
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