We carry out many Internet activities. Most do not need to reveal identity. In others, some personal information is required. But in the official procedures, you have to show that it is you the natural person who is requesting this procedure.

For this you use the digital signature, but also the digital certificate, the electronic DNI, the Cl @ ve system, etc. They are confusing terms, some overlap each other, and each one serves a different purpose.

We’ll see what are their differences, how can we get them, and what can we use them for.

This electronic DNI reader is approved in Spain. It is connected by USB to a PC or Mac to use the DNI certificate in official procedures.

In many cases, different names are used which can be confusing. In others, it is the same thing. For example, the electronic DNI is actually a digital certificate, but it also has a physical format.

That is why it is important to understand each term, to avoid confusion.

Certificates and digital signatures

That’s how it works

All these systems are based on the same idea: You have to appear at an official body to prove that it is you, with your ID or other identification document.

This body can be a police station, Social Security, the National Currency and Stamp Factory, the Tax Agency, etc.

They identify you and give you a certificate or a unique key, that only you will know.

When you use that certificate or key, then you will have identified yourself unequivocally, because no one else has it.

Where can I use the certificates and digital signatures?

They are necessary when you have to carry out official procedures with state agencies, or sign contracts with companies.

For example, to request information from the Social Security or the Treasury, to make the Income Declaration online, to gamble online, to request a loan from a bank, etc.

These protective sleeves prevent unwanted payments on contactless cards that use RFID or NFC. Thieves will not be able to make charges by bringing a reader to your purse or purse.

Any procedure in which ask to prove your identity online.

It is the interested party who will tell you the type of identification that he accepts.

Be careful, they expire fast!

The digital certificates and the electronic DNI have keys that they expire every so often. Normally every 24 months, but some certificates may only last a few months.

That is why the keys must be renewed. In some cases it can be done online. In others, you have to go to an official body and identify yourself with your fingerprint on some machines that are available for this task.

They will update the passwords of the DNI or they will give you another personal password, and you will be able to continue using it for another year.

What is the digital or electronic signature

The Electronic signature O digital company it is the most basic type of online identification. It is the equivalent of the pen signature of a lifetime.

It is a very broad and somewhat diffuse term, because many different things are called a digital signature. According to the company, they accept very different things as digital signatures.

For example, in some cases it is a password that they give you if you send a photocopy of the DNI. In others you have to send the ID and a selfie.

There are companies that require you to record your voice, or associate it with certain unique data on your mobile. Or they require you to install an app.

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All these methods have in common that, as a general rule, You have to identify yourself, but physical presence is not mandatory. You can identify yourself with a selfie, voice, a hardware key, etc., without the need to physically present yourself in a place.

Note that many services call the digital certificate digital signature. So you will have to complete the certificate procedures that we explain later.

What is it for?

Since it is a less strict identification system than a certificate, the procedures in which it accepts digital signatures are more limited.

For example, it is used to bet online, to hire certain business services, to make an appointment with Social Security, the doctor, or the Treasury, to consult certain basic public data, to pay online, etc.

Instead, it is not suitable for more serious and private procedures, such as checking your tax data, paying or collecting money from the Treasury, requesting an important loan from the bank, etc.

For all this you will need a digital certificate or electronic DNI.

How do you get a digital signature?

As we have seen, it depends a bit on the company that accepts digital signatures.

For example, creating an account with your data, sending a scan of the DNI, with a selfie, going to the store, with a phone call, receiving an SMS on the mobile, installing software, etc.

What is the digital certificate

The digital certificate is a slightly more sophisticated version of the digital signature.

The big difference is that the certificate requires you to identify yourself in person in an official state authentication body. In Spain it is the National Mint and Stamp Factory.

That organism verifies that it is you, and a machine emits a random key that only you will know, because they deliver it to you with a sealed envelope.

This key is not the certificate. Actually, this digital certificate is a series of encrypted data that is installed on the computer or mobile.

You connect to a website that the issuer has given you, download the certificate using that key to identify yourself, and it will be installed on your device.

When a service asks you for the certificate, it will locate it on your computer and use it automatically.

Of course, if you delete the certificate or the device’s operating system, or update it, you can lose the certificate. In that case you will have to reinstall it, repeating the previous step.

What is it for?

A digital certificate is only obtained when the issuer of that certificate has verified that it is you physically, with your ID, so it is considered the most reliable identification system.

That is why the electronic certificate is used in the most important procedures: Delivery of the Income Statement, signing of loans in banks, changes in tax data, renewal of documents, and other tasks.

How do you get a certificate?

In Spain, digital certificates are issued by the National Currency and Stamp Factory, through its CERES service.

If you enter the web you will see a manual where they explain all the steps, as well as the button to request or renew the digital certificate:

By recording the data, you will get a code.

You will also see a map with the nearest certification offices to the place where you live. You have to go to one with a document that identifies you, such as your ID, and the code they have given you.

Once you have been identified, you will get another code and instructions to download the certificate to your computer.

When you install it, the services that need it will recognize and use it automatically.

Remember that the certificate expires, so you will have to renew it by going to the CERES website.

The Cl @ ve system

Spanish public administrations use a special digital certificate called the Cl @ ve System. It is an alternative to the electronic DNI for people who do not yet have it, or if you do not want to use a DNI reader for your procedures with the administration, for example.

This system requires you to register on the Cl @ ve website. For this you need an electronic certificate, the electronic DNI, or receive a letter with a code at the address that you have registered with the Treasury.

After registration you receive a Cl @ ve PIN, which allows you to carry out basic procedures, such as requesting a medical appointment, consulting city council information, etc.

For more important procedures or when you access the Administration services very often, you have to get a Permanent Cl @ ve, which is obtained on the same website. It does not expire as fast as the Cl @ ve PIN.

In some cases, when you use it, you will receive a code on your mobile, which you must enter.

Finally there is the [email protected] Firma, which is used to sign documents.

It is obtained using the permanent Cl @ ve, and it is only necessary if in some administrative procedure you have to sign a document, proving that it is you.

What is the electronic DNI

The Electronic DNI It is like the DNI of a lifetime, that is, the National Identity Document in the form of a card. The difference is that that card has a chip inside it that can be read with an NFC reader.

This chip contains all the data of the physical DNI (name, place of birth, age, etc.), and also a series of unique encrypted keys, which are used to identify you online.

Actually the electronic DNI is a digital certificate, which also has a physical version (the physical ID). In the vast majority of procedures that require a digital certificate, you can use the electronic DNI, because it is the same.

Keep in mind that to use the DNI with your computer or mobile, you need a DNI reader, which barely cost 9 euros on Amazon:

This reader connects through a USB port.

Another important fact to know is that there have been different versions, which are adding new functions: DNI 2.0, 3.0, etc.

The DNI 4.0 is currently being issued. Includes news such as be able to carry your ID on your mobile and so you do not have to carry the physical card. The data is also included in several languages, and several common tools for the entire European Union.

What is it for?

The electronic DNI, like the digital certificate, can only be obtained if you have physically identified yourself before an official body.

Therefore It has the maximum validity when doing an online procedure. It is used for the most important tasks: submit or consult your income statement, pay debts or fines to the State, or collect money from it. To obtain personal medical information, to consult confidential information, request a credit from the bank, and much more.

How do you get the electronic DNI?

There is no longer a difference between the electronic and physical ID. Now when you go to process it, they give you both.

You cannot request an electronic ID as such. If you do not have it, you must wait until you have to renew your DNI, so that they give you the email.

You can too lose it, and go to a police station to report it, which will process a new one, and it will be electronic.

In the same way, if you have a DNI 2.0 or 3.0, you cannot ask to be given the DNI 4.0. You have to wait for the renewal … or say you’ve lost it … You may have to pay a loss penalty, but it’s small.

To obtain this electronic DNI, You must go to the nearest police station where this document is processed, since not all police stations do.

The DNI can be renewed online, or at least ask for the appointment. In this card we explain how to do it:

If it is time to renew your DNI, or it has even expired due to an oversight, you can carry out most of the procedures online. You will get all the information you need and you will save a lot of time. We explain how to do it.

As we have commented, the keys of the digital certificate that contains the DNI chip expire after 30 months.

You have to go to a police station and use a machine that will renew these keys automatically, when you identify yourself with your fingerprint.

We have seen what are the digital certificate, electronic DNI, digital signature or electronic signature, and what is each one for.

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