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Trust in the Digital World

Doing More with Less. Improving service to it’s citizens and businesses, at the same time that budgets are shrinking, leads public – and government organizations into a Digital Transformation.

Processes and communication are quickly replaced by digital processes and documents. But digital information is pervasive: it is here today, but can be gone or changed tomorrow. How to preserve this digital information and keep it authentic and trustworthy?

Records Management

“[the] field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”

ISO 15489-1:2001

Guaranteeing Authenticity

Hacking and Fake News are major concerns of Governments and Businesses alike. Everyday we read or hear about it on Twitter, the news or trade journals.

It is a fact that it actually is quiet easy to manipulate and tamper with digital documents. And most of the time the reader cannot spot these changes! The consequences are severe: Loss of Trust and decisions based on false information.

Fortunately there are several ways to ensure and guarantee the Authenticity of digital documents.

Digital Signature

One option is to “sign” a document using a so-called Digital Signature. This technology is based on a Private Key/Public Key combination that uses digital certificates. The Digital Signature software creates a digital fingerprint (a ‘hash’) that is stored in a PDF document. When the PDF is opened in Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat will display a message or a warning wether or not the document has been tampered with.

This prevision method is good, but has several drawbacks.

  • It is limited to PDF
  • A good solution needs a special hardware infrastructure, which makes it expensive
  • The Certificate Authorities are complex to secure and manage, and, although not common, there are several cases where Certificate Authorities were hacked and abused

In short, they are expensive and not as safe as people think.

Blockchain: Proof of Authenticity

Blockchain, a relative new technology, has proven to be tamper-proof and a great solution to certify all kinds of documents safely and to guarantee Authenticity. And at a very reasonable price.

It works by creating a unique electronic fingerprint (a hash) of any digital object, so not only PDF, but any electronic file. This electronic fingerprint is stored on a public Blockchain. (Don’t worry, not the document is stored, just the fingerprint, which cannot lead back to any useful information)

To verify the document (or object), just repeat the same steps: create the electronic fingerprint and send it to the Blockchain. If the electronic fingerprint is the same, the object is unchanged and is Authenticated. You will then also receive the original date and time the object was first stored on the Blockchain.

Blockchain will provide you with Proof of Authenticity and Proof of Existence in a certain point in time. Guaranteed tamper-proof.

Digital Preservation through PDF/A and XML

A major step in preservation of information is converting documents to the ISO standard document formats of PDF/A and XML. This prevents loss of information caused by changes in data formats due to software changes or software becoming obsolete at all.

Using a standard ISO format ensures that documents and data can be read in the future as well.

PDF/A conversion

The Sphereon PDF/A service offers the capabilities to convert a wide range of document formats to a ISO-standard PDF/A format:

  • Microsoft Office documents (.docx, .xlsx, pptx, en .doc, xls, ppt)
  • PDF documents (.pdf)
  • Email messages (.msg, .pst, .mbox, .eml, .emlx)
  • AutoCAD drawings (.dwg)
  • Text files (.txt, .rtf, .csv, .html, .xml)
  • Images files (.tiff, .jpg, .png)