Security Requirements And Evidentiary Issues In The Interchange Of Electronic Documents: Steps Toward Developing A Security Policy


Peter N. Weiss


VOL. XII • October 1993 • NO. 3 (table of contents)

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As the business world turns from using paper to electronic documents, the security aspects of electronic documents must be examined. No law has dealt with the security of electronic documents. Therefore, guidelines for assessing the relative security of an electronic document compared to its paper counterpart is essential to the continuing success of the electronic document in the business world.

Aspects of the legal admissibility of electronic documents follow that of traditional paper documents. A finding that a document, paper or electronic, is genuine and reliable allows it to pass the scrutiny of legal admissibility. In order to prove a document is genuine and reliable, one must 1.) prove the document actually came from the party it purports to come from; 2.) prove the content of the transaction actually occurred between the parties during the contract formation process; 3.) reduce the possibility of deliberate alteration; and 4.) reduce the possibility of inadvertent alteration.

Attempting to satisfy these requirements can be done in a number of ways, including access controls, internal message verification and data encryption. These are some of the methods for making electronic documents genuine and reliable for evidentiary and general business purposes. Determination of how secure an electronic document must be is made by examining the document and analyzing the tampering risks and threats commonly associated with similar documents. This analysis can range from not sensitive (documents such as order status information) to highly sensitive (documents such as electronic funds transfers).

In sum, the amount of security needed for an electronic document is easily comparable to a similar paper document. Establishing the geniuses and reliability of the electronic document can also be done in nearly the same way as paper documents. Therefore, the security needed for electronic documents to pass evidentiary muster is essentially a mirror for what is needed for any paper document.

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