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Understanding GSA Digital Certificates and Digital Signatures

A digital signature is the legal equivalent of a hand written signature.  It is most often used on a digital certificate to ensure the certificate’s authenticity, verify the identity of all parties involved in the issuance and receipt of the certificate, and securely encrypt or decrypt data related to the digital certificate.

A digital certificate is the pair of files that are used to create the digital signature, and is comprised of a public key file and a private key file.  The public key is issued by a mutually trusted, independent issuing authority (such as IdenTrust or Operational Research Consultants (ORC)) and the private key is stored on your computer. When you download a digital certificate, both the public and private keys are sent to your computer.  The public keys are used to sign and encrypt documents, while the private keys are used to decrypt documents and messages and remain stored on your computer.  You should never share private keys

Benefits of Their Use

There are many benefits to using digital certificates and digital signatures. Using digital signatures and certificates ensures that messages are sent from you and not someone pretending to be you.  They also prevent other recipients from intercepting or tampering with your messages or documents. Additionally, they help to streamline workflows by allowing people to sign and deliver validated documents securely at all stages of the business cycle.

In order to have access to GSA’s eOffer / eMod applications, all GSA Schedule vendors must have a digital certificate to sign contract documents electronically.  GSA is also planning to expand the digital certificate program to all non-Schedule vendors, so expect to see more information about this in the future.

How Do I Obtain a Digital Certificate?

You can purchase a digital certificate directly through IdenTrust or ORC.  You can also learn more about the use of digital certificates through the eOffer/eMod applications by clicking here.

About BH Sky

BH Sky Associates, based in Princeton, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., helps clients identify, negotiate, secure, market and manage procurement opportunities and contracts at federal, state, and local levels of government.  It is New Jersey’s only company specializing in GSA/VA Schedule Contracts and Government Market Intelligence.  BH Sky offers professional consulting services to small and mid-size companies in a wide range of industries seeking to do business with the government.  For more information, view our videos or contact us directly by phone 866.468.7420 or email