Digital signature software lets agencies write off paperwork

Striving for the same level of trust accorded to ink on paper, two digital signature
vendors recently announced advances in their software products.

Silanis Technology Inc. of Dorval, Quebec, in March released ApproveIt 4.0 software.
Earlier ApproveIt versions are in use by several military organizations to take the paper
out of workflow. Cyber-Sign Inc. of San Jose, Calif., is entering the government market
with its biometric signature authentication software after getting a start among health
care and financial users.

“We’re looking for a General Services Administration Information Technology
Schedule reseller,” Cyber-Sign sales manager Mike Reese said. The two companies use
digitally captured signatures in different ways. ApproveIt emphasizes the signature itself
as part of an electronic approval system. Cyber-Sign focuses on the biometric act of

ApproveIt associates a digitally captured signature with a certificate of authority.
The signature can be embedded in a document to prevent any changes after signing. Approved
documents can be forwarded in a workflow application and carry the same authority as
signed paper.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997 bought a 1,500-seat license for ApproveIt 3.0 to
reduce paperwork and make remote approvals easier. Joint Chiefs users beta tested Version
4.0, which has several features they requested, such as independent signing and approval
of sections of a document.

Other Defense Department sites using ApproveIt include Fort Belvoir, Va., Eglin Air
Force Base, Fla., and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. All three sites use it for
their internal documents. The Army Personnel Command is making ApproveIt part of an
automated enlistment system. The Naval Sea Systems Command uses it in approving nuclear
submarine design specifications.

So far, the approval software has been used only within enterprises, but Silanis
Technology hopes ApproveIt eventually will facilitate transactions between enterprises.
“The law is following technology,” Silanis marketing manager Tracey Ades said.

Cyber-Sign treats signatures not as a finished result but as a process. The Cyber-Sign
Enterprise client-server toolkit analyzes the act of signing to verify the signer’s
identity. It captures the shape of the signature made with a stylus on any vendor’s
touch-sensitive pad, measuring speed, stroke order and pen pressure, and tracking the
pen’s movement above the pad. The resulting profile is a unique biometric identifier.

With a signature template stored on a secure server, a written signature can take the
place of a password to access a PC, network or applications. It can both seal and
authenticate a document. Authentication is stronger than a password, because the biometric
signature cannot be forgotten, lost, stolen or guessed. Because so many individual
dynamics are involved, forgery is almost impossible.

Cyber-Sign Enterprise works on LANs, WANs, intranets and the Internet, communicating
via TCP/IP. The application programming interface is compatible with Microsoft Windows 9x,
Windows NT, various Unix versions, and applications written in C, C++, Visual Basic and
Sybase PowerBuilder.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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