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Signature Forgery: Enhancing Transparency and Security with Digital Signatures

 

Digital signatures have sparked a revolution since the development of the RSA algorithm (named after its inventors – Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman) in 1977. RSA went on to become the most common asymmetric algorithm in use, ensuring electronic messages and data storage remain secret, secure, and accurate. This marked the dawn of various digital signature schemes that began emerging soon after.

Besides saving time, paper, and a lot of effort, did you know that digital signatures could have also averted several crimes and scandals in the past? Let’s look into a couple of interesting cases.

Digital signatures in courts

Back in 2013, a band of six cybercriminals forged release documents and had them signed by the judge to facilitate a legitimate-looking prison break. Also, in 2012, a man in Pennsylvania forged release papers to escape from his sentence for tax fraud. All these cases could have been easily avoided using the traceability offered by digital signature solutions.

Search warrants are another area where digital signatures can make a significant difference. A search warrant is a document signed by the magistrate that grants authority to law enforcement officers to search a property. Search warrants contain sensitive information like names & social security numbers of people and informants involved, along with evidence. The search warrant is based on another document called an affidavit signed by a law enforcement officer, stating the facts and the reasons to search the property.

With digital signature solutions in place, it is possible to speed up this process while adding a layer of virtually impenetrable security. A quickly signed warrant can be the thin line separating a major bust and an escaped felon in mission-critical situations.

Also read: Guide to Going Paperless with DrySign

Some recent cases of signature forgery

A resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee, named Robert Hallick, was arrested on account of forgery. He allegedly used his real name for his initial application to carry a firearm. The Tennessee Department of Safety and the Homeland Security Handgun Unite rejected his application due to an active warrant in Michigan. He then applied for the second time using the name of the former president Barack H. Obama and forged the signature of the Commander-In-Chief. Eventually, in February 2021, he was caught and sent to prison.

A Canadian passenger from Stratford was arrested on 11th February, 2021 on account of forged COVID-19 tests at the Pearson International Airport. After a thorough investigation, he was found to test positive for COVID-19.

In November 2020, there was yet another case in New Jersey where a Hunterdon County resident named Brian Shilling was arrested for forging a signature while casting a mail-in vote. He forged another individual’s signature, certified it, and sent it to the Hunterdon County Board of Elections, purporting the vote was cast by someone else. He was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying records, and disorderly persons offense, among other charges.

Conclusion

The implications and consequences of such incidents are direly devastating. When we look at it in retrospect, it is evident that these situations could have been easily averted using Digital Signatures. 

Unlike traditional, hand-written signatures that can be easily forged, digital signatures offer multiple layers of protection. Even before a signer can access a document and sign, e-signatures can verify the signer’s identity through various options such as email address, SMS, OTPs, ID verification, and knowledge-based questions. 

Then come the physical and platform security measures, including malware protection, commercial-grade firewalls, strict access control, data encryption, multiple authentication, and security certifications. 

With all these fool-proof measures in place, do you think any of the above forgery cases would have transpired? No chance. 

Sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/six-charged-florida-prison-escape-used-forged-documents-flna2d11778731

http://index-of.es/Hack/Scene%20of%20the%20Cybercrime%20-%20Computer%20Forensics%20Handbook%20(Syngress).pdf

https://www.ktvu.com/news/tennessee-man-arrested-after-forging-former-president-obamas-signature-on-handgun-permit-reports

https://www.nj.com/hunterdon/2020/11/nj-man-charged-with-voter-fraud-after-forging-signature-on-mail-in-ballot-authorities-say.html

https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/stratford-man-charged-with-using-false-covid-19-document-at-pearson

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