This is to do with providers that supply various trust services in order to facilitate trustworthy communication for secure electronic transactions in the digital realm. These trust services usually concern electronic certificates, digital signatures and seals, time stamps, registered delivery services and the like. The trust services provider supplies those services to the public.
Trust service providers
The emergence of trust service providers has to be understood in the context of the eIDAS Regulation and the German equivalent, the eIDAS Implementation Act. Subsequent laws, such as the Trust Services Act (VDG) and the Trust Services Regulation (VDV) also play a key role in this context; the latter substantiates the requirements for the trust service provider’s services. The role of the trust services is essentially to establish a digital trust space on the Internet. Anyone wanting to obtain the status of a trust service provider must undergo a complex qualification process at the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).
Why a trust space?
The need for a trust space is the result of the problem that, when it comes to digital or electronic transactions/communication, you can never be sure whether a sent document has been altered in between it being sent and its receipt. In addition, you can never be sure whether the document or email was actually sent by the person shown as the sender in your email client. In other words, the integrity and authorship of electronic transactions cannot be proven by the transactions themselves. They can, however, be proven by trust service providers and their tools. Ultimately, the eIDAS Regulation Act and the laws and regulations which have been mentioned (VDG and VDV) create legal certainty.
Trust service providers and electronic signatures
Trust services and their providers safeguard the foundations for trust through asymmetric cryptography. Electronic certificates and the signatures derived from them act as proof for the authorship and integrity of a document, email or signed agreement. You can learn more about digital signatures in the Newsroom. In short, electronic signatures provide the necessary trust through electronic certificates distributed via Public Key Infrastructure .
Which trust services are available?
The electronic certificates issued by the trust service provider come into effect for different trust services. In essence, these are always variations of the electronic certificate on which the signature processes are based. In short, the following trust services are available:
- Sophisticated or qualified electronic seals, which represent an electronic signature for legal entities; they are suitable for companies and organizations
- Sophisticated or qualified electronic signatures, which represent a signature for natural persons
The same applies to electronic time stamps, which trust service providers also make available as a trust service in a sophisticated or qualified format.
Trust service providers facilitate legally-secure electronic transactions through trust services
Trust service providers use electronic signatures and seals, time stamps and electronic delivery services to supply both the tools and the infrastructure to establish a cross-border trust space within the EU. The evidential value of electronic transactions safeguarded by trust services is recognized throughout Europe (eIDAS Regulation). Especially when it concerns trust services and trust service providers which are qualified by the BSI and whose services are accepted by the Federal Network Agency.