Electronic ID or digital certificate

Are you wondering when to use electronic ID or digital certificate? The purpose of this post is to give a general version of the differences between digital certificates in software format and those that come by default in the eID, in fact, many people do not know that the electronic ID contains two digital certificates, one for authentication and one for electronic signature.

In previous articles we explained graphically the concept of digital certificate, its practical use and how to obtain it.

Some examples of use are: the Virtual Office of the Tax Agency, the Virtual Office of the Social Security, the Virtual Office of the Cadastre, etc…

Both allow the secure signing and encryption of any type of electronic document, including e-mail messages, as well as the identification of users before telematic services of the Public Administration and private entities, although there are some differences to take into account when choosing between the electronic ID card or digital certificate, let’s see them:

Software Certificate

  • They are provided in the web browser and in file format (extension .p12 or .pfx).
  • Application processes specific to each CA.
  • Electronic signature law: As we have commented in several posts, according to the electronic signature law, for the electronic signature to be considered a recognized signature legally comparable to the handwritten one, the signature must have been created in a secure signature creation device, which means that the electronic signature with a certificate in software format will at most become an advanced electronic signature.
  • These certificates are normally defined by the PKCS#12 standard
  • Difficulty in the procurement process.
  • The expiration of the certificate will depend on the CA, with an average of 2 to 3 years.
  • Agility in daily use.
  • Possibility to export it and have it on several computers.

Electronic ID:

  • Expiration: The recognized electronic certificates incorporated to the eID have a validity period of 30 months. Upon expiration of the validity of the electronic certificate, the issuance of new recognized certificates can be requested, keeping the same card of the National Identity Document as long as such document remains valid. In order to request a new certificate, the holder must be physically present.
  • The loss of validity of the National Identity Card will entail the loss of validity of the recognized certificates incorporated to it. The renewal of the National Identity Card or the issuance of duplicate copies of the same implies, in turn, the issuance of electronic certificates.
  • Electronic signature law: The electronic signature with eID will be considered as a recognized electronic signature, since it is a secure signature creation device.
  • The General Directorate of the Police is responsible for issuing the electronic ID card.
  • You need a eID reader to be able to operate with it, in addition to physically possessing both the reader and the eID to be able to operate.
  • Obtaining the certificate is free of charge, but if it is due to renewal or loss of the eID, you will have to pay a minimum cost.
  • Contrary to the software format, the process of obtaining it is quite simple, since it is enough to renew your eID or to physically go to the General Directorate of the Police, in case you only need the renewal of the certificate.

This is as far as my neurons go, I’m sure I’m missing many more, but that’s a job I’m going to leave to you. What do you prefer: electronic ID or digital certificate?


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