Why are digital document safer than paper and what is ETR

NOTE: This article first appeared in LinkedIn on September 27, 2015

Physical paper originals are prone to forgery and misuse.

To solve this issue DeBuNe provides OTDocs with the technology to manage encrypted and unique digital documents based on the ETR approach:

Easy To Reach,
Existing To Remain,
Electronically Time-Recorded,
…and Electronically Transferable Records.

ETR documents are as solid as paper originals, with added traceability, ease of use and security. Authoritative ETR documents are unique and they cannot be duplicated -they are shared and can be worked on collaboratively by authorized parties, and their ownership is transferable.

E. T. R.

Single paper originals are commonly seen as a safe medium for sensitive information due to the fact that they can only be in one place at any given time. In practice and as proven by frequent successful schemes, this difficulty of access is actually an advantage for many fraudsters: it renders forged copies hard to verify, and misused originals hard to trace.

Surprisingly enough, digital document are subject to the same flaws as, even today, there hasn’t been any significant advance in creating an efficient, secure and collaborative document management solution.

DeBuNe, providing the technology behind OTDocs, answers to these caveats with Unique Digital Documents following the ETR approach.

ETR: an acronym with 4 meanings

  1. Existing To Remain: ETR documents are written only once. Instead of being sent and received, they are stored in a single digital space which is accessed by authorized parties, which enables collaborative work via sharing and versioning.
  2. Easy To Reach: Every involved party can access authorized data in a given document with a minimum of effort, e.g., by clicking on a hyperlink.
  3. Electronic Time Recorder (Time Stamp): ETR document will be attributed a consultable time stamp, which is the precise time of their creation. ETR document description and details (‘metadata’, e.g.: author, location, time stamp) are inalterable and provide a native way to assert their validity.
  4. Electronic Transferable Records, where documents change owner:

Creates and maintains a single authoritative copy that is unique, identifiable and unalterable without detection.

Authoritative copy identifies the person asserting control as either to whom the transferable record was issued or the issuer.

Authoritative copy is communicated to and maintained by the person asserting control or its designated custodian.

Copies or revisions that add or change an identified assignee of the authoritative copy can be made only with the consent of the person asserting control.

Each copy of the authoritative copy and any copy of a copy is readily identifiable as a copy that is not the authoritative copy.

Any revision of the authoritative copy is readily identifiable as authorized or unauthorized.

Documents created with this technology possess all the advantages of current formats while solving their caveats. They allow faster, simpler and more secure business transaction as well as significant increases in money and time savings.

Paper Documents

Paper has its perks: Resilient and requiring no additional technologies, good quality paper and ink have proven valuable to durably collect and store information. Keeping this in mind, it is still widely believed that since paper originals are unique, access restricted, physical objects, they are the best format to ‘immortalize’ contracts, business transactions and other sensitive information.

Nonetheless, the difficulty of access to paper originals slows down and obscures available verification processes. Far from being a security layer, it becomes a loophole which fraudsters leverage to either misuse valid documents or resort to forgery -a fact continuously proven by numerous successful schemes.

The use of paper originals also creates loopholes via the following caveats:

  • Redundancy: Sharing paper-stored information is only possible via copy. The location and validity of a given copy is often hard to trace.
  • Fragility: Paper-stored information is easily destroyed, tampered with or lost.
  • Obscurity of origins: Verifying the origin, author and time of creation of a paper original, let alone a copy, commonly involves more than one party (witness) and a disproportionate amount of effort.
  • Obscurity due to access limitations: a paper original can only be in a single place at any given time, there is no way to collaboratively work on its content or quickly verify information when not in possession of the original source.
  • Lack of security: information stored on paper is typically readable to anyone with physical access.

Surprisingly enough, even today, as word processors have become a norm, digital documents are still processed in the same manner as their paper counterpart. Unencrypted information is still liberally copied, modified and exchanged, and little progress has been made in facilitating efficient, secure and collaborative document management.

ETR and Unique Digital Documents

The technology provided by DeBuNe and implemented in OTDocs uses the ETR approach, creating encrypted Single Unique Documents easily accessible by authorized parties. Documents created with this technology possess all the advantages of current formats while solving their caveats. They allow faster, simpler and more secure business transaction as wells significant increases in money and time savings.

(thanks to Jean-Daniel Gauthier for help with the content)

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