E-signatures to become legally binding in Dubai

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed has ordered Dubai's Public Prosecutor to draft a law that gives digital signatures the same legal status as pen-on-paper signatures.

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By  Rob Corder Published  June 7, 2001

Dubai’s government looks set to become the first GCC authority that will recognise digital signatures as legally binding. His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, has ordered the Public Prosecutor to prepare a draft law that would bring digital signatures into the legal framework of the Emirate.

Digital signatures are issued to individuals by Certification Authorities. Etisalat subsidiary, Comtrust, is already established as a Certification Authority in the UAE. To obtain a digital signature, individuals have to submit proof of identity to the CA and pay a nominal fee. These digital signatures can then be attached to e-mails so that the recipient of an e-mail can be sure that the contents have not been tampered with en-route between the sender and receiver. If an e-mail is tampered with, by a hacker for example, the digital signature is invalidated and the recipient of the mail is notified.

Digital signatures also add a layer of security into transactions on Web sites. “It’s all about solving the problem of everybody being anonymous on the Internet,” explained Jon Tullett, editor of Network Middle East. “Normal communication has a certain amount of inherent security: you recognise the face, you recognise the name, you recognise the signature, etc. The Internet strips away individuals identity. Digital signatures give that identity back.”

In the future, security conscious organisations like banks and government agencies may refuse to do business with companies or individuals that cannot prove their identity. At this point digital signatures and digital certificates (which cover an entire company) are expected to become as common as passports.

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