We live in a time when electronic communication is so powerful that, if we look globally, we can conclude that we live in an information society that used modern methods of communication and business even before the Internet revolution. In business communication, e-mail has almost replaced traditional mail. One of the modern global approaches to communication is certainly the electronic signature, which greatly facilitates and accelerates business communication.
Since the electronic signature is an important part of the business, we are listing the basic characteristics of the electronic signature and its application and limitations of application in our country.
What is an electronic signature?
According to the Law on Electronic Signature of BiH (Official Gazette of BiH 91/06) from 2006, electronic signatures are data in electronic form that accompany other data in electronic form, or logically connected with them and enable the identification of signatories.
A signatory is a natural person who has been assigned information on the creation of a signature and relevant data for signature verification and who has been issued an electronic signature on behalf of or on behalf of a third party or a certifier using a certificate to provide electronic signature or authentication services.
The basic function of an electronic signature is to confirm the authenticity of the signatory of the electronic document, i.e. to ensure the integrity of the data and protection against changes in the content of e-documents. Electronic signatures are based on asymmetric cryptography, which involves the use of two keys – private for signing and public for verifying signatures.
Who issues the electronic certificate in BiH?
Based on special approvals of state bodies to which this competence is transferred by law, such as the Ministry of Transport and Communications of BiH, the Accreditation Agency of BiH and similar institutions, other legal entities may also obtain accreditation for issuing digital certificates in BiH. These legal entities are “certification bodies” (CAs) and are responsible for issuing public and secret keys and exchanging public keys.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Halcom met all the conditions in the register of certifiers with the submitted application and thus acquired the status of a creditor for the issuance of qualified electronic certificates.
Who can have an electronic signature?
In BiH, individuals and legal entities can obtain an electronic signature. All personal data of users of a qualified electronic signature are processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which means that natural and legal persons can use their electronic signature in the country and abroad.
How to apply for an electronic signature?
The process of issuing an electronic signature is performed in the following steps:
- It is necessary to define the number of certificates and the names of digital signature users;
- Submit the request to the CA in written or electronic form;
- The user receives a private key that the CA distributes to users via Internet, and which is only available to them. This key is mostly used in the form of a password or in the form of a hardware package via smart (SMART) cards and readers, USB tokens, etc.
- Installation of digital certificate on private computers;
- Training of employees in case of using electronic signature.
Use of an electronic signature?
The use of an electronic signature is linked to the legal framework of the country governing it. In EU countries, the electronic signature is used for authentication on various systems or for access to various public and private portals such as tax returns, access to documentation from municipal and court offices and so on. The use of electronic signatures is wide in the context of the exchange of documentation inside and outside institutions. The benefits of using an electronic signature in this way are time savings one one hand and ease of use on the other.
Archive of electronic documents
The sender of the electronic document keeps a copy in the digital archive of the IS (information system) of their business system. Therefore, the digital archive stores confirmations of sending an electronic document, but also confirmations of receipt of an electronic document.
- The archive of electronic documents can be performed: on individual computers on which the creation, digital signing, sending of an electronic document or receipt of an electronic document is performed, or
- centralized on FTP servers or other form that depends on the information system.
The method of archiving digital documents should be prescribed by internal rules for each business system.
The archiving time depends on the content of the document. It is important to store documents electronically for the same period of time as the paper documents are stored.
Use of electronic signature in Bosnia and Herzegovina
For many years, the question of the importance of establishing an electronic signature has been raised at various sessions of state bodies. The benefits of this digitalisation process are huge and are already well known to all. However, although the pressure to follow EU trends is growing, the speed of movement towards the finalization of this story tells a completely different tale. The Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to extend the use of electronic signatures, even though the BiH Electronic Signature Act was adopted in 2006. However, there is no indication that this digitalisation process will soon come to life in BiH, as it was established years after the adoption of the law that it is not in line with the EU eIDAS directive.
According to information in the media, in order to comply with EU requirements, it is necessary to pass the Law on Electronic Identification and Services for the Provision of Electronic Transactions. That law would cover electronic signatures and electronic transactions, as well as everything related to them. In this context, the new Law on Electronic Identification would repeal the previous law.
In the Federation of BiH, the Law on Electronic Signature was on the agenda of the House of Peoples on February 26th this year, when the draft Law on Electronic Signature of the FBiH was adopted. Unlike state law, federal law is harmonized with the eIDAS directive, and will not have to be subsequently harmonized with state law.
In the entity of the RS, the first electronic signature law was adopted in 2008 (Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska 59/08), and in 2015 the electronic document law (Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska, No. 106/15). But implementation is still pending. The fact that a decision on the certification body that will deal with the issuance of the electronic signature is still to be made, also slows down the process. So far, there is only one company in our country that meets all the conditions required by the EU to perform this business.
As stated before, in the register of certifiers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Halcom met all the requirements with the submitted application, and thus obtained the status of a creditor for the issuance of qualified electronic certificates. In particular, they met security requirements, especially in relation with protection against data misuse, which created the conditions for the implementation of the Electronic Signature Act. There is also a strong possibility that in the future the status of certification bodies (CA) will be granted to state agencies, such as the Indirect Taxation Authority of BiH (ITA BIH) and the Agency for Identification Documents, Records and Data Exchange (IDEEA).
We will certainly discuss electronic signatures more, once we have the relevant laws and when the answer to “who will supervise the authorized certifier” is known. According to the EU, supervision is exercised by only one state-level body, and the entities have already provided for their own supervisory bodies. Until all problems in this area are solved (simplification of services for citizens, public institutions, improvement of the business environment with faster and easier business, shorter business start-up process and all the benefits of an electronic signature), all we are left with are unfulfilled dreams.