Updated: January 21, 2005
Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2
A digital signature is a way to ensure the integrity and origin of data. A digital signature provides strong evidence that the data has not been altered since it was signed and it confirms the identity of the person or entity who signed the data. This enables the important security features of integrity and nonrepudiation, which are essential for secure electronic commerce transactions.
Digital signatures are typically used when data is distributed in plaintext, or unencrypted form. In these cases, while the sensitivity of the message itself may not warrant encryption, there could be a compelling reason to ensure that the data is in its original form and has not been sent by an impostor because, in a distributed computing environment, plaintext can conceivably be read or altered by anyone on the network with the proper access, whether authorized or not.
For more information about digital signatures and certificates, see Certificates Resources.