Misuse of Digital Signature Certificate

Consequences & Safety Measures for Misuse of Digital Signature Certificate

Online Legal India LogoBy Online Legal India Published On 07 Sep 2022 Updated On 10 Sep 2022 Category Digital Signature Certificate

In order to validate & authenticate the identity of the individual holding this certificate, the certifying authority will issue a digital signature certificate, which is a secure digital key. Public key encryptions are used in digital signatures to produce the signatures. In addition to the user's name, country,  pin code, email address, certificate issue date, and certifying authority name, a digital signature certificate also includes information about the user.

Classes of Digital Signature Certificate

The type of Digital signature certificate one must apply for based on the necessity is determined by the applicant type and the reason for which the digital signature certificate is sought. The certifying authority has three distinct kinds of digital signature certifications.

Class 1

These are distributed to private subscribers & are used to verify that the user's name and email address from the specified topic is stored in the certifying authority's database.

Class 2 

These are given to directors and signatories of companies in order to facilitate electronic filing with the Registrar of Companies. When submitting returns with the ROC, persons who must manually sign papers must hold a Class 2 certificate. 

Class 2 Certificates will no longer be approved as of January 1, 2021, & will be replaced by Class 3 Certificates, under instructions from the Controller of the Certifying Authority.

Class 3

These certifications are accepted across India while participating in or bidding on e-auctions and online tenders. The Class 3 digital signature certificate is required of suppliers who want to participate in online tenders.

Importance of Digital Signature Certificate
 

The importance of a Digital Signature Certificate is as follows:-

  • Necessary for Filing Applications

People and organisations who must have their accounts audited are obligated to file their income tax returns using a digital signature. Furthermore, all statements, applications, and forms must be submitted by digital signature exclusively, according to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs' mandate. Even for the submission of all applications, changes, and other associated forms, a digital signature is required.

  • Time Saver

With the stroke of a mouse, papers and contracts can be signed off on, saving businesses time and money. When the required signer is located in a different region, there is significant time & money conservation. It is likely to sign documents virtually immediately & from anywhere. Whether using a tablet, phone, or internet, digital signatures may easily guarantee that this normally time-consuming process is concluded in a matter of minutes.

  • Money saved

With little to no costs for paper, ink, printing, scanning, shipping or delivery, or travel, many businesses also see considerable cost reductions. Other indirect expenses like filing, encrypting data, archiving, or tracking is also reduced.

  • Process effectiveness

Digital signatures give greater process efficiency with fewer delays. Document management and tracking are made simpler, requiring less time and effort. Digital signatures have many benefits that make work processes more efficient. 

For instance, email notifications can serve as a reminder to sign, and status monitoring can provide information about the state of the document.

  • Safety is ensured 

Since DSC operates in electronic mode, the likelihood of a duplicate certificate is essentially nonexistent. Unlike physical signatures, the certificate cannot be changed, tampered with, or duplicated. The owner is provided with a confidential password that only he may use to access his signature. The papers are made legal and safe by DSC.

  • Legal Validity 

Documents are given legal validity by the digital signature, which may be used as evidence in court. The food licence is regarded as being on par with the physical signature when submitting papers to several agencies for multiple registrations, such as IPR registration, company registration, food licencing, etc. 

In reality, the usage of a digital signature certificate is essential for the mandatory authentication of all papers that must be submitted via these online portals.

  • Improved client experience

With digital signatures, customers and signers of crucial papers may easily complete their signatures from any location. Salespeople are not required to wait for clients to arrive at the bank or office. At the entrance, paperwork might be approved. 

This is perfect, especially for offering better, more individualised services in rural regions and smaller townships. Customers now have the choice to interact with businesses from anywhere, which makes products and services much simpler, quicker, and more user-friendly.

Legal Consequences for the Misuse of Digital Signatures
 

The legal consequences that one has to face if he/she misuses Digital Signatures are stated below.

Information Technology Act of 2000
 

According to Section 66C, a person who commits fraud or dishonesty and uses another person's electronic signature, password, or other distinct identification feature is punishable by imprisonment of any kind for a time that may not exceed 3 years & by a fine that may not exceed Rs. 1 lakh. Section 71 prohibits making false statements or omitting information that is significant in order to obtain a licence or digital signature. It can be used in the following circumstances:

  • In the event that anybody lies to the controller or the certifying authority
  • If someone fails to disclose a piece of crucial information to the controller or certifying body

With the sole purpose of obtaining a licence or digital certificate from the controller or the certifying authority, such deception or suppression of a significant fact is punished by up to 2 years imprisonment & a fine of  Rs. 1 lakh. The controller or certifying authority must receive accurate and appropriate information. A violation of section 71 of the act is the dissemination of false, inaccurate, or misleading information.

In accordance with Section 73, "Publication of Digital Signature," which is untrue in some respects. False information may be published in a digital certificate under the following circumstances:

  • Publication of a certificate for a digital signature that the certifying body has not granted.
  • Publication of a digital signature certificate that the certificate’s genuine subscriber has rejected.
  • Publication of a certificate for a digital signature that has been suspended or revoked.

The fabrication, publishing, or provision of a digital signature certificate for fraudulent or illegal purposes is punishable under Section 74 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, with up to two years in jail or a fine of one lakh rupees.

Indian Penal Code, 1860
 

According to Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, forgery is the act of creating a document, electronic record, or portion thereof that is false with the purpose of misleading the public or another person, to support a claim or title, to trick someone into giving up their property, to enter into an express or implied contract, to commit fraud, or to suggest that fraud will be committed.

In Section 463 of the Act, it is stated that-

  • Whenever someone creates, signs, seals, executes, or transmits a document, electronic record, or a portion of it, with an electronic signature attached.
  • When someone makes significant changes to a document or record that has been electronically signed by either themselves or another person, whether they are alive or not at the time of the alteration, without having the required authorisation.
  • If someone signs, executes, seals, modifies, or attaches their electronic signature to any electronic record when they are aware that they are not of sound mind and are oblivious of the facts of the signed document or the sort of modification made, they are acting dishonestly or fraudulently.

Forgery is punishable under Section 465 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. 

Forgery is punishable by either physical or mental incarceration for a time that may be as long as two years, a fine, or both. The Magistrate First Class can set bail for this crime and try it.

Safety Measures to Avoid the Misuse of Digital Signatures
 

Although it is a helpful tool, a digital signature certificate carries significant risk. 

Here are a few actions:

  • Any individual should maintain sole physical control of the token.
  • We must first get a permission letter before signing anything on our client's behalf. 
  • We should continue working on it, for instance. 
  • In practice, it is not that feasible to get possession of the token at the time of filing; there may be a scheduling conflict. This is why a practising chartered accountant signs ITRs or other GST forms on behalf of their clients. Therefore, they must also get a letter of authorisation for its care.

Legal Aspect of Digital Signature
 

Electronic records must be authenticated, according to Section 3 of the Information Technology Act of 2000. It stipulates that digital signatures may be used to authenticate electronic records. It outlines the technical specifications for digital signatures. It specifies the use of a hash function and an asymmetric crypto scheme for the authentication of electronic records. An electronic document must be authenticated in order to be considered non-repudiable, meaning that the sender cannot dispute the production of the document. This assures that the message has not been altered and verifies the originator's identity.

In order to avoid tampering with electronic records, the goal of authentication is achieved by using an asymmetric system and hash function to convert the e-mail message into an unreadable format. The process or system used to encode and decode digital signatures is known as a hash function. The consequence of a hash function is a hash value, sometimes referred to as a message digest. It is crucial in ensuring that the information is safe and secure and that the message has not been tampered with.

FAQs
 

How many categories of digital signature certificates are there?
 

There are three different categories of digital signature certificates available.

May I know the purpose of using Class 1 digital certificates?
 

Yes, you may know the purpose of using Class 1 digital certificates. These are provided to company directors and signatories to make the electronic filing with the Registrar of Companies easier.

How to apply for DSC online?
 

There are many service providers available for this task. Online legal India also provides you with the service of DSC registration online.

Is it mandatory for the directors of a company to have a digital signature certificate?
 

Yes, it is mandatory for the directors of a company to have a digital signature certificate.

Why Class 3 DSC is important?
 

When participating in or placing a bid on e-auctions & online tenders, these certificates are recognised throughout India. Suppliers that want to participate in online tenders must have a Class 3 digital signature certificate.

Conclusion

Stronger protection is needed for the expanding online transactions and contracts, and digital signature now provides such protection. The government should permit and implement different forms of authentication, such as a fingerprint scanner or an Aadhaar card connected to a password-based online transaction, in the interest of the cyber community. The various techniques would make it simple to identify people, helping to reduce online misuse of DSC, make online transactions easier, and further improve user security online because, as of right now, the true identity of people online is an illusion.


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