03. September 2013

OpenLimit supports the Open Signature Initiative to foster transparency and interoperability for electronic signatures

Leading European institutions, associations, enterprises and projects join forces to launch the non-profit Open Signature Initiative (http://opensignature.org), which aims at improving transparency and interoperability with respect to electronic signature technology and related trust services.

Electronic signatures are crucial for internal market of trustworthy services
The existence and broad adoption of suitable standards is clearly a prerequisite for the successful implementation of a single European market of services as envisioned by the directive 2006/123/EC. Electronic signatures allow to maintain integrity, authenticity and trust in electronic transactions. "While electronic signatures play a crucial role in the implementation of a single European market of trustworthy services, the practical adoption of this important security technology still seems to have room for improvement.", states Prof. Dr. Udo Helmbrecht, Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA). While the proposed eIDAS Regulation [COM(2012) 238 final] is expected to boost the digital single market by making it easier for citizens and small and medium enterprises to use eID, electronic signatures and related trust services across borders, the current situation is suboptimal.

Improvable interoperability, usability and transparency with respect to e-signatures
In particular there are still many interoperability and usability problems, which make signature technology hard to deploy in practice. There are subtle technical dependencies between the various hardware and software components, which are typically involved in the process of creating and verifying electronic signatures and often impede interoperability and impair user experience. “Despite the long lasting efforts and valuable achievements of the different standardisation bodies and accompanying interoperability initiatives, we have not yet reached full interoperability with respect to signature creation devices, signature application components, trust services and electronic signatures on a European level.”, states Prof. Dr. Helmut Reimer, who was for a long time CEO of the TeleTrusT assoiation and is editor of the German journal for privacy and data security (Datenschutz und Datensicherheit (DuD)). “To make matters worse, the stumbling blocks and effective interoperability properties of components and services are often not transparent for prospective users, because there is a lack of publicly available information about the relevant technical features.”, adds Dr. Detlef Hühnlein, CEO of ecsec GmbH and Coordinator of the Open Signature Initiative.

Open initiative to enhance transparency and interoperability for electronic signatures
Against this background experts from well-known European organisations have joined forces to prepare the launch of the Open Signature Initiative, which will take place on September 11th, 2013 in the scope of the Open Identity Summit 2013 (http://openidentity.eu). This non-profit initiative cordially invites all interested institutions, associations, projects and individuals to contribute to the enhancement of transparency and interoperability with respect to electronic signature technology. This includes, but is not limited to, vendors and issuers of signature creation devices and signature application components, providers of trust services, application providers, standard development organisations, publicly funded projects, academic institutions, associations and last but not least government bodies and policy makers.

Initial supporters include ENISA, EEMA, BSI, TeleTrusT, GI/BIOSIG, SK, Open eCard, FutureID, STORK 2.0, AuthentiDate, CCESigG, ecsec, GAD, G&D, intarsys, OpenLimit, Procilon, Thames Stanley and Trustable
The initial supporters of this non-profit initiative include leading European institutions, associations, enterprises and projects, such as the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), the European Association for e-Identity and Security (EEMA), the German Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, BSI), the German IT Security Association (TeleTrusT), the Estonian Certification Center (AS Sertifitseerimiskeskus, SK), the Open eCard Project, the FutureID Project, the STORK 2.0 Project, AuthentiDate International AG, the Competence Center for Electronic Signatures in Health Care (CCESigG), ecsec GmbH, GAD eG, Giesecke & Devrient GmbH, intarsys consulting GmbH, OpenLimit SignCubes AG, Procilon Group, Thames Stanley GmbH and last but not least Trustable Ltd. "We appreciate the Open Signature Initiative, as it aims to improve transparency and interoperability with respect to electronic signature technology and related trust services in Europe.", states Prof. Dr. Udo Helmbrecht, Executive Director of ENISA.

Cordial invitation for product vendors and issuers of signature creation devices
In the initial phase the Open Signature Initiative in particular invites issuers of signature creation devices and product vendors to contribute to this non-profit initiative.

Issuers of signature creation devices are invited to provide test devices and corresponding technical specifications in order to facilitate the creation of standardised capability descriptions according to ISO/IEC 24727-3 and provide accessible information about the implemented registration process and guidance how to perform the registration in a cross-border setting.

Vendors of signature creation devices, signature application components and services are invited to provide technical information about their products as well as corresponding test and demo versions of the components or services, which can be evaluated by interested parties to verify the interoperability claims.

The Open Signature Initiative covers the entire life cycle of electronic signatures ranging from the issuing of certificates, over the creation and verification of electronic signatures to the long-term preservation of digital evidence. “It is a pleasure to see that the Open Signature Initiative also covers long-term aspects of electronic signatures based on the Evidence Record Syntax.”, states Tobias Gondrom, chair of the concluded IETF LTANS working group and co-author of RFC 4998 and RFC 6283.

OpenLimit supports the Open Signature Initiative to foster transparency and interoperability for electronic signatures

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