Securing Your Signature

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 11, 2016)

11

Len often uses Word to send letters and he usually pastes a scanned copy of his signature into the document. He worries, however, that it can be deleted or misused, so he wonders if there is a way to paste it into the document (it's a JPG file) and have it secured in some way.

The short answer is that there is no way to protect your signature (or any other graphics file) that you place in your document. There are, however, several things you can do to make it more difficult to use. For instance, you could protect the document by restricting editing. (To start, display the Review tab of the ribbon and click the Restrict Editing tool.) You could also save your document out in PDF format, which would stop the individual signature image from being selected.

The reason that you can't get absolute protection, of course, is that if you can see the image it can be grabbed, in some way or another, and saved electronically. It is rather trivial to grab a screen shot of the signature and then crop it down in a different graphics editing program. (This approach doesn't care whether you are using a Word document or a PDF document—both are just as easy to grab.)

The only way to stop your signature from potentially being misused is to not include your signature in the document. This isn't as flippant a suggestion as it sounds. For instance, you might use a "modified" signature in the document, such as only your first name instead of your full signature. You might also find a handwriting font and type your name in using the font. This gives a nice decorative touch, but it doesn't include your actual signature.

For more important documents where the receiver needs to be sure that the document came from you, you might consider forgoing the graphic signature and, instead, use a digital signature. Digital signatures have been available for e-mail messages for years. (You can do an Internet search to find tons of information about digital e-mail signatures.) Word, however, also offers digital signatures for your documents. Here's an article at Microsoft's site that discusses it in more detail:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/add-or-remove-a-digital-signature-in-office-documents-HA010099768.aspx

Even though the article was written specifically for Word 2007, its contents also apply to later versions of Word.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12499) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two more than 9?

2016-05-11 04:38:25

eSignly

This is great information for every one to take care online documents and be secured. Thank you for sharing this with us to let us know how we can manager every aspect of Signature.


2016-01-13 09:41:47

Thomas Redd

Len,
The comment I just made to Peter Buxton also applies to you. It doesn't matter if you make it a PDF or not. If I can see your signature on the screen, it is mine to use any way I see fit--and that might be a problem for you. You will never know what other documents you have signed when I capture what I see and put it in other documents I create! Wake up! This tip is a warning to people like you that think a PDF is safe! Believe me, PDF files are not safe and can be modified easily, and remember that if I can see something on my screen, I can take that visual and use it as I wish. You should be much more careful with your signature! Remember, I don't even have to attempt to "forge" it if you let me see it. I have it if I see it!


2016-01-13 09:35:09

Thomas Redd

Just a warning to Peter Buxton...

I think you missed the whole point of this tip. There is not end to the methods of getting your signature on an electronic document. The challenge is not giving your signature to everyone out there in the electronic world. If I can see your signature on the screen, it can be mine. I can capture it and reuse it for anything I want to use it for. That could be the end of your good reputation. Even if you send your signature as a PDF, in only seconds I can have it stored on my computer to use at my discretion and not yours. You really should be much more careful about how you distribute your signature!


2016-01-13 07:03:54

Peter Buxton

My preferred way to include my signature is to first create a PDF of the unsigned document and then "stamp" the signature in. I have created a custom stamp for this in my PDF programme (I use Nuance).
Because I frequently have to initial all pages of a document, I have also created a custom stamp of my initials logo. This can be used to stamp all pages at once. Flattening the file makes the stamps a permanent part of the PDF.


2016-01-12 10:08:38

Len

The best solution for me has been to save the Word file as a .pdf then "print" the .pdf file to another .pdf. That way, the signature integrates fully into the document and can't be modified (though it could be erased). I usually name the new file DocName_pr.pdf


2016-01-11 14:15:41

Stephen Ray

In MS Word 2013, when you double click by the X you get a pop-up box saying that in order to sign the document you need to get a digital ID from a Microsoft Partner. It appears these services have to be paid for. Is there some sort of work-around to paste in a signature in version 2013?


2016-01-11 08:54:43

Nancy Gulliver

Thanks for this - it is perfect timing! I had just been working on a project and was considering using my signature, but felt very uneasy about it. This gave me great insight right before I would have possibly made a huge mistake! Thanks so much for doing what you do - it helps us (those of us that don't know so much about WORD) to make better choices. We greatly appreciate it!!!!


2016-01-11 08:17:58

Henry Noble

A commercial service such as DocuSign might be the best solution. It is widely used in the real estate business to exchange signed contracts.
https://www.docusign.com/


2014-07-17 15:35:58

Gretchen

I've been looking into digital signatures and my question is - what would prevent someone from using the insert signature and putting my signature on a document I've never seen? It doesn't force you to send an email to the person to get permission.


2013-03-02 07:42:05

Len

Wow. The power of collaboration on the Internet. Thanks very much to all who contributed. In the end, I realize that it is impossible to protect a signature. Even a paper copy could be scanned and misused. I only wanted to make it more difficult for the ordinary user.

Thanks again

Len


2013-03-02 07:38:56

Surendera M. Bhanot

Its realy good. Microsoft has done so much in Word that one lifetime is not suffucuent to learn even a part of it. Thnak you Microsoft and Allen Wyatt for bringing it to us.


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