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Digital certificate - 5 keys for your enjoyment

What is a personal digital certificate for? How do you get it? How is it used? How much does it cost = is it free?… And the digital stamp? These are simple questions that we have endeavored to complicate.

Most of the adult Spaniards coexist - intimately - with a digital certificate, without knowing it. We are facing one more paradox of our Disinformation Society. You bet on some public administrations closer to the citizen, for self-service, electronic invoicing and information security, but, we neglect its cornerstone: the digital certificate.

Spain was pioneer promoting the digital identity of its citizens, but other countries are showing far superior practicality (Mexico / Solcedi, for example). The processes of Chile y Peru.

As I do not want us to throw in the towel, since our identity in cyberspace is at stake, we are going to recopilar 5 key aspects to be able to enjoy (today!) Digital certificates.

1. What is a personal digital certificate for?

Easy, serves to represent us.
Each personal digital certificate identifies a person (physical or legal)
unequivocally, bindingly and legally.

2. What can we do with a personal digital certificate?

Everything, everything. Allows us sign documents, emails, contracts, invoices, divorces. Also identifies us -without a doubt- for access to banks, public administrations ... and the gym, the children's school or online shopping. We can even use it to encrypt information (for us or to give to others).

3. How do you get a digital stamp?

In several countries it has been incorporated into the official identity document (within a physical medium, the Electronic DNI), but the ease of use that has been achieved so far can be greatly improved. Fortunately, there are numerous organisms officers (CERES / FNMT, SAT / Solcedi, Civil Registry Chile [pdf]) that deliver personal digital certificates, as well as specialized companies (Comfortable, GlobalSign, etc). The more ancestry the issuer has, the less explanations I will have to give to justify my credibility.

4. How are digital certificates used?

We will focus on the electronic signature, it is the best way to get started in these twists and turns and shields everything we sign: if they modify it, the electronic signature is canceled.

Every digital certificate has two parts, one public and one private. We will deliver the public part to anyone who wants to verify our signature while the private part is the one that really allows us to sign, it is equivalent to our "electronic hand" (OjO! Jealously guard!).

We will have our certificate in a file or on a «cryptographic» card (as in the Electronic DNI or on the cards ACA for advocacy). The card requires a reader to use it, it is safer and somewhat more cumbersome.

To sign any document it is enough to support the program with which we are writing it (mail client, text editor, etc.) in the option «Digitally sign»  Easy right? No kidding, if the program doesn't find a certificate to put in your mouth, it will ask us to tell you where it is.

We can also sign documents that others have given us. Both the eCofirma app, distributed from INTECOand VALIDe space they make it simple for ussee recognized providers).

The result:
the same content with an inviolable addition,
our electronic rubric.

Sharing or distributing the public part of my certificate is as easy as sending a digitally signed email. If I go by note, I can also export the public part of my certificates and share it by disk in the cloud, etc.

So that he does not believe it, we refer you a video-tutorial (3 and a half minutes) on "How to sign a Microsoft Word document", published by the «Section of Administrative Modernization and New Technologies of the Provincial Council of Burgos» or the detailed explanations of the Cenatic.

5. I'm interested, where do I start?

Starting, without fear.

«@aec_es: The key to Innovation? The action. Fran chuan. #CSTIC 2013. » (@PanelSystems)

√ Email yourself SIGNED to yourself.

√ Send a signed email to someone else.

Don't know who?
To ourselves: testing.firmas (AT)
We will answer you with our sample signature.

 √ One more step. Check the test documents that we publish:

    • On your own computer, with a reader PDF files.
    • On your own computer with the eCofirma app (PDF and xsig formats).
    • In the web space of VALIsignature dation and online certificates and De@firma service desk.

These are the test documents:

a) PDF file (signed with @firma): PanelSystems_Web_signed.pdf
b) PDF file (signed with eCofirma): PanelSystems_Web.xsig
c) PDF file with «watermark»: PanelSystems_Web_watermark.pdf

d) Finally, our certificates for this workshop:
- A root Certification Authority: Cert_AC_Raiz-PanSis.cer
- An issuing entity for workshop certificates: Cert_ES-PanSis.cer
- The public part of the example certificate used: Cert_Example_Pub.cer

All packaged for consumption here: certificate_icon

That simple,
you are already in the game,


Personal digital certificates are useful,
easy to get and cheap.
What more could you want?


Finally, a bit of mental noise: mini-digital trivia.

If we scan a paper invoice, we have a bill digital (a PDF file) but we DO NOT have an electronic invoice (billurae in Spain). Thus, if we sign an invoice, we have a signed invoice (on paper or digital), but we still do not have one billurae .

We can use our fingerprint to identify us (fingerprint reader on the computer or even the iPhone 5S incorporates "Touch ID"). If we access a system with our fingerprint, that does not mean that we can sign without the need for a digital certificate.

Your signed digital files require a custody, as you do with your "important papers." You can support yourself for this in specialized services, such as metapost (my favorite).

La evolution over time of electronically signed documents still presents various approaches. This article from our friends from safe layer offers an excellent perspective: «Non-repudiation and long-lived digital signatures (XAdES, CAdES and PAdES)«.

If you are looking for a "cloud in hand" solution, you will like the proposal of  SignNow.



Related links:

  • Download this little "Workshop" to sign digitally with a Digital Certificate: certificate_icon
  • Download Center: download more documentation and guides for free in our Download Center



Miguel Ángel Nicolaus

Miguel Ángel Nicolaus

Miguel Ángel is CIO, Director of Innovation and co-founder of Panel Sistemas. Follow @ mnicolao11 on Twitter, or visit their profile at Analysis. You can also contact him via e-mail at this address.

Leave us your comment


  1. Javi

    Hello Miguel Angel, I think it is a great article to spread the use of digital certificates, which unfortunately does not have the expected implementation despite being a technology with a bright future.
    Just one question, regarding digital stamps, do you mean time stamp? Or simply to the digital certificate signature of a certain file? (Wow, the electronic signature!).

    A greeting.

    • Miguel Ángel Nicolaus

      Good Javi,
      Issues such as the time stamp or the advanced signature we have left for another occasion, seeking to prioritize simplicity.

      The reference to the "Digital Seal" (as equivalent to the Digital Certificate) is, simply, an approach to the terminology of Mexico, in recognition of the good work that is being done there in this matter.
      For example:

      Thanks for your comment.



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