What is Remote Online Notarization?
Remote Online Notarization (RON) is a form of notarial work that can be done through the internet using live video calling programs. Through RON, legal documents can be signed by the client and notarized by the lawyer without them having to meet face-to-face.
Pandemic or not, the world is going more and more online. Some jobs that have traditionally required face-to-face interaction to complete now have options to be done digitally and remotely. Notarization is one such function. Currently, there are 35 states that have some form of permanent remote online notary laws in place, with more expected to join the fold soon.
The fact that most states have now instituted virtual notarization indicates that they recognize RON as a more secure way to deter fraud compared to the traditional in-person notarization. In fact, a bipartisan bill was recently introduced in the Senate which aims to authorize notaries in all US states to perform RON.
Each process in remote notarization is aimed at better combating deception. Before the client is able to sign the document, the notary first verifies the person’s identity through identity authentication queries also referred to as Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA). This verification procedure requires the signer to provide information that is privy only to the person who owns the identity in question. Using Public Key Infrastructure technology, the notary then attaches a unique digital seal to the e-document and any alterations on it will be undeniable. Significant portions of the live video call are required by law to be recorded and securely stored by the notary.
As will be discussed in the following sections, a lawyer intending to become an online notary has to satisfy several cybersecurity requirements laid down by the state. A common requirement, as it is in Texas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, is an X.509-compliant certificate using PKI (public key infrastructure) technology. A great answer to this requirement is Adobe-trusted document signing certificates from SSL.com.
Here’s a breakdown of how to become an online notary, and how you can satisfy some of the more general requirements, which may vary from state to state. The National Notary Association provides a good central resource on these requirements nationwide.
Requirements for Becoming a Remote Online Notary
Hold a current commission as a notary public in your state
In most cases, you can’t apply to become an online notary without first holding a commission as a traditional notary public in your state.
Current access to government-approved computer equipment
Having computer equipment for RON might seem commonsensical but it is essential to point out because each state has its own specific sub-requirements. As a starting point, an online notary is obligated to have a secure computer, a webcam capable of recording clear images, a microphone that produces comprehensible sound during the live call, and a strong and safe internet connection. Visit your state government’s website to find out about the specific metrics required for each tool.
Apply or register to perform virtual notarizations
To begin the online notary application process, you’ll need a few key bits of information:
- Your notary identification number assigned by the secretary of state
- Your date of birth
- Your social security number
Must have a digital certificate issued by a third party provider
Some states expand on this requirement, saying the certificate must use PKI technology and be X.509 compliant. This is too vague, however, as the X.509 format encompasses many types of digital certificates, including SSL/TLS certificates for websites and code signing certificates. If you’re looking for the right certificate for your online notary application, SSL.com’s Business Identity Certificates are a great option.
SSL.com’s Business Identity Certificates may be delivered or installed on a FIPS 140.2 validated YubiKey USB token. This token can be used for secure document signing in Adobe PDFs and Microsoft Office documents. A digital signature provides proof that the signer of an electronic document is who they claim to be, and demonstrates that the information in the document has not been altered since it was signed.
Digitally-signed documents also ensure legal non-repudiation. If a person digitally signs a document with their private document signing key, it is difficult for them to deny that they signed it. As a publicly trusted certificate authority and member of the Adobe Approved Trust List (AATL), SSL.com’s Business Identity certificates are trusted worldwide for signing virtual documents, including Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office. This means that both Acrobat and Microsoft view our PDF signatures as valid and your customers will not see error messages about your signature in these applications.
Here’s an example of an invalid signature error in Adobe:
And here’s an example of an approved signature confirmation:
Business Identity certificates from SSL.com also include an S/MIME certificate and client authentication capabilities, providing the trust and assurance of digitally signed email and additional login security options.
Complete RON-specific testing or training as required by your state
Because the processes for performing a digital notarization are different, your state will likely require additional training courses or testing before you can become a RON.
Get remote online notary tools like an eSeal
Along with your SSL.com Business Identity certificate, you’ll need a few other tools. One of which is your digital notary seal, which you can purchase online. You will need your commission or Certificate of Authorization to purchase your seal and have it shipped to you.
Valid Contract with a Cybersecurity Company
Because the components of online notarization require cyber expertise, you need to contract an internet security service provider that has the technology to conduct digital-based identity verification and credential analysis as well as the ability to securely store an audio-visual recording of a virtual notarization.
Fees, Insurance, Bonds
Once you have everything in place for your application and your certificate, there are just a few more bits of housekeeping. You’ll need to have a surety bond to cover remote online notarizations, an Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance policy that covers RONs, and will need to submit any other documents required by your state’s laws.
A lawyer wishing to conduct virtual notarization should have government-approved cybersecurity tools that will be used in accurately verifying identities, digitally sealing documents to protect their contents, auditing the online transaction, and securely storing electronic documents.
Becoming a remote online notary can be a boon for your notarization business. Taking the right steps to be prepared to offer secure, trustworthy, and compliant services is worth the effort. SSL.com’s Business Identity certificates can be a key choice in improving your experience and offering the best service to potential clients.