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Developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, the Digital Signature Standard (DSS) is a collection of procedures and standards for generating a digital signature used for authenticating electronic documents. Specified as Federal Information Processing Standard 186 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1994, the Digital Signature Standard has become the U.S. government standard for authenticating electronic documents.
The Digital Signature Standard is intended to be used in electronic funds transfer, software distribution, electronic mail, data storage and applications which require high data integrity assurance. The Digital Signature Standard can be implemented in software, hardware or firmware.
The algorithm used behind the Digital Signature Standard is known as the Digital Signature Algorithm. The algorithm makes use of two large numbers which are calculated based on a unique algorithm which also considers parameters that determine the authenticity of the signature. This indirectly also helps in verifying the integrity of the data attached to the signature. The digital signatures can be generated only by the authorized person using their private keys and the users or public can verify the signature with the help of the public keys provided to them. However, one key difference between encryption and signature operation in the Digital Signature Standard is that encryption is reversible, whereas the digital signature operation is not. Another fact about the digital signature standard is that it does not provide any capability with regards to key distribution or exchange of keys. In other words, security of the digital signature standard largely depends on the secrecy of the private keys of the signatory.
The Digital Signature Standard ensures that the digital signature can be authenticated and the electronic documents carrying the digital signatures are secure. The standard also ensures non-repudiation with regards to the signatures and provides all safeguards for imposter prevention. The standard also ensures that digital signed documents can be tracked.