The Juricert™ “Trusted Digital Credentials” system was created by the Law Society of British Columbia in 2000 to support the developing need for secure transactions over the Internet. This need was twofold, firstly to ensure that the content of transactions are secure, and secondly to create a system for the verification of the identity and professional status of the lawyer.
The principal application driving the development was the anticipated system for the electronic filing of documents into the B.C. land registry system. The Law Society, together with other interested parties such as the CBA worked with the provincial government on the development of the system.
“EFS” – the electronic filing system – was launched in April 2004. Since then over 150,000 land title documents have been digitally signed and then e-filed via the B.C. Online service. Details on the EFS system can be found on the Land Title and Survey Authority (“LTSA”) website (www.ltsa.ca) and in materials available through the Continuing Legal Education Society of B.C.
The forms are created and completed using Adobe Acrobat “PDF” (portable document format) computer files. They are signed by the lawyer using Acrobat software and the “digital certificate” issued to the lawyer by Juricert. The certificate can be thought of as the pen needed to create the digital signature. It is the tool needed to create the digital signature. The effect of the signature is to lock the contents of the file and identify the professional status of the person signing the document.
On receipt at the LTSA the document – for example a mortgage – is checked to see if it has in anyway been changed since the application of the signature. The status of the person who signed is checked against the records at Juricert to ensure that the person is still qualified to sign land title documents. There have been a very small number of document sent for registration that were signed using certificates not provided or verified by Juricert. When this happens the documents are immediately rejected and notification is given to the LTSA and Juricert. On investigation in every instance so far the problem was due to user error in the selection of the right certificate to use for signing.
We have cancelled certificates on several occasions. This is usually at the request of the lawyer for such problems as a stolen laptop or computer problems at the law office. In these circumstances a replacement certificate can be issued.
The signing certificates issued by Juricert can be used to sign any PDF file. Firms are using this capability to digitally sign such documents as reporting letters, opinions, bills, and other electronic correspondence. PDF files can also be encrypted so that they can be sent as secure attachments to regular e-mail messages.
Below is an example of a digital signature as it appears on a Land Title document.