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Ihunanyachi Thompson, UsefulPDF: “organizations must create clear processes to store their important documents”

With threat actors being more active than ever before, business owners struggle with implementing anti-malware solutions and maintaining seamless workflows.

The remote work model has created new challenges for client-based organizations to conduct business, forcing them to focus on user-friendliness, effective work regimes, and cybersecurity. Document storage and singing have also become a hassle, with company owners reluctant to adopt new digital models.

We reached out to Ihunanyachi Thompson, the CEO at UsefulPDF, to learn more about ways in which companies can digitally sign client documents and continue with their operations without resorting to commonplace physical document storing.

Tell us about your journey. How did UsefulPDF go from an idea to a project?

UsefulPDF started as a PDF converting and signing tool. We wanted to help people convert from PDF to other file types or from other file types to PDF. Also, signing PDFs (eSign) was a major part of this idea because COVID-19 was just getting started, mandatory lockdowns were in place around the world, and businesses were feeling the crunch.

We built out the first prototype of UsefulPDF with about five of the PDF conversion tools – converting from word to PDF, PNG to PDF, JPEG to PDF, and from PDF back to these file types.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What are the main challenges you help navigate?

The vision is to automate complex business processes with useful and easy-to-use software. For example, one of our products, UsefulDocs, helps you create effective legal documents with a few button clicks and use them however you please.

Our electronic signature software allows our customers to continue doing business regardless of the distance that may separate them. Deals can be closed even if there are barriers to movement or if the size of the deal would make it infeasible for people to travel. In essence, we’ve created an intuitive way to streamline cumbersome document processes.

You describe making products simple to work with as your main goal. What other digital aspects of our daily lives would you like to see simplified in the next few years?

We want to make complex and time-consuming processes simple and automated. With our software suite, we will automate the entire document processing life cycle – from collecting customer data with UseForms to automatically generating documents with UsefulDocs and signing those with UsefulSign. The Integration with other tools helps to route these documents to relevant tools in your stack.

In a more general sense, some of the complexity we experience in our lives makes no sense to us. For example, the process of filing taxes is cumbersome for almost no reason. The tax code can be much simpler. Onboarding employees, purchasing things online, selling things online, opening bank accounts online, making an insurance claim, getting insurance, etc. These are all areas I’d like to see simplified. We may not necessarily be the people to do it but if we can get folks moving in the right direction then we’ve done our part.

What would you consider to be the most serious cyber threats that emerged during the pandemic?

The pandemic saw a rise in cyber threats as a result of more people working from home. With less supervision, employees might be tempted to involve in cyber crimes or fall victim to it more readily. For me, the cyber threat that stood out is the Remote Access Trojan (RAT) used by the attackers to gain administrative control over a computer so they could harvest data. Threat actors impersonated the covid-19 information documents to quickly share this virus using PDFs.

Another threat worth mentioning is the Log4J vulnerability that surfaced late last year. Log4J is a piece of software used by Apache webserver software to log errors and more. It was almost like a pandemic for software running on the Apache servers. Though this vulnerability has been handled by the cyber security world, it sure did leave a mark.

It makes it apparent how any software - no matter how established - can eventually lead to vulnerabilities. That’s why you need to adopt a security-conscious mindset as a business and as an individual.

While a digital signature is becoming a widespread tool, there are still some myths and worries surrounding it. What misconceptions do people tend to have most often?

This is an interesting question. Why? Because I wrote an internal blog post about the confusion between digital signatures and electronic signatures. Yes, people tend to confuse these, thinking that they’re both the same, and as such, they use them interchangeably. But the truth is that they are not the same and can’t be used interchangeably.

Digital signatures authenticate a document or even a digital file to be tamper-evident. This works using PKI where the signer has their own private key. An electronic signature, on the other hand, is the equivalent of someone signing a paper document. It’s a method of entering into a legal agreement in a digital/electronic environment.

Furthermore, it’s a common misconception that any signature that’s appended to a document is legally binding. That’s not quite true. Electronic signature software does a lot of heavy lifting in the background to make sure a signature is considered legal. For example, an audit trail, fingerprinting the document, and more.

Even though the use of digital signatures is commonplace, written signatures are still widely used. Are there any issues that can arise in this mix?

From a legal perspective, no. There’s no inherent issue with this mix but when you think of business processes, there may be challenges. For example, you may know that you’ve signed a document and have an executed agreement but it’s not been documented whether that agreement was executed digitally or using a physical signature.

If it was executed with an electronic signature, did you use your own software or the software of your business partner/client? If the latter, how do you access a copy or where do you store your copies?

Many businesses see issues with signing physically and electronically because they haven't adopted clear processes for storing and processing important legal documents. If you’re lucky, there will be a shared folder in Dropbox or Google Drive with all the documents.

Electronic signatures are here to stay. So, individuals and organizations must create clear processes to store their important documents the same way they do with physical file storage.

Which technologies do you think will emerge as digital identity becomes a significant part of our lives?

Blockchain is the future of digital identity. The potential of blockchain is yet to be tapped. These technologies will make digital identity become an everyday practice that enables decentralized identity. So, it's the future of it.

In your opinion, which security measures will be essential for everyone in the upcoming years?

With the rise of cyber threats, digital document signing is essential for everyone, especially businesses. With our solution to help both small, medium, or large-scale businesses, we believe that all files should be digitally signed with end-to-end encryption. Even when this data is stolen, it will be practically useless in the hands of a cybercriminal.

But in the long run, educating people on cybersecurity is more or less the most essential part of security. People fall victim to giving out sensitive information that puts systems vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Share with us, what’s next for UsefulPDF?

We’re launching UsefulDocs in a couple of weeks from now, and this is our starting point to business automation. Next on our roadmap is UsefulForms which will allow users to collect data, generate documents if they choose to, and also route that data to all the tools in their tech stack using natively available integrations. In the end, we’ll combine these modular tools into a single system for end-to-end document workflow management and data management for our customers.

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