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Adobe Acrobat 9 How-To #120: Creating a Digital ID Profile in Acrobat 9

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Like many systems for managing documents and processes, Acrobat uses a digital signature to secure content. Donna L. Baker explains how digital signatures work and discusses the features that Acrobat 9 offers for setting up and using digital IDs.
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Like a handwritten signature, a document's digital signature (also known as a digital ID or digital profile) represents you to the recipient. A digital signature has two parts: a public key and a private key. Fortunately, you don't have to decide which key to use when. You use your private key to apply your digital signature to a file, which encrypts the data by using the public key. The public key is contained in a certificate that you exchange with your colleagues and contacts to verify your identity. Other people use your public key to create encrypted information to share with you. This two-way exchange of certificates and keys is the basis for building trusted identities (discussed later in this article).

Creating a Signature

You can create both default and custom signatures in Acrobat. To create a new signature, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Advanced > Security Settings to open the Security Settings dialog box. Click Digital IDs on the left side of the dialog box to display your existing ID files in the upper-right pane of the dialog box (see Figure 1).
    Figure 1

    Figure 1 Digital ID files, along with other types of security servers and IDs, are listed in the Security Settings dialog box.

  2. To build a new signature, click Add ID on the dialog box's toolbar. The Add Digital ID dialog box opens, giving you four options. The first three deal with existing IDs: You can find an existing ID from a file, a roaming ID stored on a server, or a device connected to your computer (such as a smartcard). To build a new ID, click "A new digital ID I want to create now" and then click Next at the bottom of the dialog box.
  3. On Windows, the next dialog box asks where you want to store the digital ID. You have two choices: The default option is to create a new PKCS #12 digital ID file, or you can add the digital ID to your Windows certificate store. Click an option, and then click Next.
  4. In the next dialog box, add the information you want to include in the certificate, such as name, organization name, and email address.
  5. At the bottom of the dialog box, select a key algorithm, which defines the level of encryption and the version of Acrobat that can open the file. Choose 2048-bit RSA for Acrobat 9, or 1024-bit RSA for Acrobat 7 or 8.
  6. From the "Use digital ID for" menu, choose the appropriate option:
    • Digital Signatures
    • Data Encryption
    • Digital Signatures and Data Encryption
  7. Click Next. In the final pane of the dialog box, click Browse to choose a storage location for the certificate, or leave the default location in the Security subfolder of the Acrobat program's installation folders so that you don't lose track of your certificates. Type a password and a confirmation of the password, and click Finish.
  8. Close the Security Settings dialog box.
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