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Ireland Allows Digital Signatures for Legal Use

By davidpfitz in News
Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 10:55:30 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

The President of Ireland, Mary McAlleese will sign (digitally, I might add) the new e-commerce bill in Ireland allowing the legal use of Digital signatures. Is Ireland the first country to allow this level of legality to such important documents? Are there security risks, have the government jumped too quickly?

A full article is available at Ireland.com


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Ireland Allows Digital Signatures for Legal Use | 23 comments (9 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
Paradox (3.50 / 4) (#2)
by Knile on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 08:42:58 AM EST

If it's not yet legal there for a digital signature to make an official document valid, how can he sign it digitally and expect the law to take effect?
Which came first, the signature or the bill? =)

Re: Paradox (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by Tin-Man on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 01:35:07 PM EST

Clinton also signed a digital signature bill today. He did it electronically, too. But mostly just for show. According to the article at Yahoo! he signed it with a pen before he signed it digitally.
The future sure isn't what it used to be!
[ Parent ]
Re: Paradox (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 05:54:09 PM EST

Clinton also digitally signed an agreement between the US and Ireland last summer. The security hard/software was implemented by Baltimore Technologies (NASDAQ:BALT) an Irish company.

[ Parent ]
He is a She... (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 05:55:30 PM EST

Mary McAleese is a woman - Ireland's second female President by the way!

[ Parent ]
Explaination of digital signatures (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by Neuromancer on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 10:49:16 AM EST

In response to the question about digital signatures, I will give a brief summary of one form.

To understand digital signatures, it is important to understand what a hash function is. A hash takes data in, and give you something else out. In the case of a digital signature, the output is best described as garbage, but USEFUL garbage.

Public key encryption uses 2 keys (in most cases). The idea is that you have 1 public key, that you give everyone, so that they can encrypt files that they send to you. This can be posted on the internet, as it does not pose a security risk, since it is what one would term a "hard problem" to figure out what the other key, the private key, is by using it.

A in laymen's terms, a "hard problem" is one that it would take an extremely long time for a computer to solve. The hard problem with public key encryption is factoring a number that is the product of 2 large prime numbers. At relatively short key lengths, this can take more computing power and time than you will ever have to spend on it.

On to what the signature is. With the signature, you run your hash on data that you transmit. For instance, if you are sending an email, the hash is typically the body of the email in a digested form, which is another kind of hash, or a line of text. It comes out as garbage. On the other end, a hash is run on it. If they can reconstitute it using your public key, you have a legally binding digital signature in Ireland.

I hope that that was helpful (none / 0) (#14)
by Neuromancer on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 10:51:08 AM EST

I hope that that was helpful, but in retrospect, I forgot to hit a few topics, hopefully, it was still good though :-)

[ Parent ]
Pretty good. Short comment on hash fn (none / 0) (#16)
by jovlinger on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 11:19:17 AM EST

I just want to amplify the fact that it should be very difficult to find two documents that hash to the same value. In CRC-32, for example, all you need is 32 contiguous bits that you controll to be able to make the hash come out anyway you want.

The value of digital signatures is predicated on this being a very hard thing to do. As an example: say that my boss was going to sign a document we had co-created. Now, I'd always wanted him to deed me his ferarri. So what I could do is to prepare the deed and calculate the hash for it. Now if it were possible for me to make our co-prepared document get the same hash (perhaps by monkeying with the bits in some included graphic or somesuch) then I could re-use his signature on the deed ot his car.

and that would be legally binding.

So it is vitally important that the hash is long enough to have very few accidental collisions, and secure enough that it is "hard" to make a collision on purpose.

[ Parent ]
Re: Pretty good. Short comment on hash fn (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by royh on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 12:02:25 PM EST

... then I could re-use his signature on the deed ot his car.

and that would be legally binding.

Why? A regular faked signature isn't legally binding; This law gives electronic signatures the same weight, right?

[ Parent ]
USA was first, just barely ;) (1.00 / 1) (#21)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 09:54:59 PM EST

Today, President Clinton signed into law (using an ink signature, getting rid of the loophole that someone else mentioned :) a digital signature law. THen he signed it digitally as well (but only AFTER the digital signature was legal). :)

(fluffy grue, at parents' house, not wanting to log in)

Ireland Allows Digital Signatures for Legal Use | 23 comments (9 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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