Frau steht am Drucker und sant im Büro

The e-file is coming! How legally secure scanning works

The e-file is a milestone for the digitisation of administration. The BSI describes how paper documents, too, can be transferred to e-files in their TR RESISCAN for replacement scanning.

The e-file is already worth it

Mountains of files on desks, paper forests growing wild in the archives and amidst it all is the pulse of working life - images of a stroll through the local administrative landscape. Germany’s authorities may run many things digitally, but paper is still omnipresent in the day to day work routine. Since the turn of the year in 2020, federal institutions have been switching over to electronic filing - a central stipulation of the E-Government Act. Judicial services must follow suit throughout Germany by 2026. 

For state authorities and citizen’s offices there are largely no binding deadlines yet. However, they should also set about switching to e-files. Because these deadlines will come. And because it is worth it. Paper-based working costs time, eats into efficiency and is already completely incompatible with mobile working. In addition to this, the archive grows with each document and with it, the storage costs. Digitising paper stocks therefore makes sense in many respects - if you do it right: To make sure easy-to-use files are just as legally effective as printed ones, evidential value must be maintained after digitisation.

Replacement scanning for full legal security

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) explains the process required for this in its “Technical Guideline 03138 Replacement Scanning” (TR RESISCAN). When replacement scanning, digital documents are created, which are identical to their original printed counterparts in terms of content and image. They have the same evidential value as the paper versions and will later be merged to create e-files. The originals, on the other hand, are destroyed - with the exception of a few especially sensitive documents. 

These are high requirements, which, above all, force us to conclude: Here, authorities will not get far with standardised scanning. The TR RESISCAN requires professional service providers. This is all the more the case because the complex scanning process is only one of many steps on the road to a legally secure digital document. According to the BSI guidelines, each project first requires an intensive analysis phase, during which the service provider should also provide support. Alongside the customer, they are to determine the protection requirements of the documents. 

These protection requirements determine which electronic signature makes a scan unalterable at the end. The verification of integrity is decisive along with a sufficient scan quality to ensure that the evidential value of the original is transferred to the digital copy. The highest level of legal security is guaranteed by the qualified electronic signature (QES). The scan service provider can only refer to qualified trust service providers (qVDA) to incorporate signatures and seals in accordance with the eIDAS guidelines. One of these is D-TRUST, a company in the Bundesdruckerei group.

“Replacement scanning is a milestone on the road to digitising administration and implementing secure e-files.”

Arne Schönbohm, President of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)
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