CableLabs Lands Device-Security Deals With NetworkFX Unit

CableLabs has formed its first subsidiary -- NetworkFX -- a for-profit venture aimed at providing device-security services for a broad range of industries that already has signed a few customers.

NetworkFX uses the same digital-certificate infrastructure CableLabs has used for the last 12 years to provide security for 200 million cable modems, set-tops and other devices that the R&D consortium has certified. The technology it uses is referred to as public key infrastructure (PKI), which uses unique, secure digital IDs to establish trusted relationships over a network.

Since CableLabs officially formed NetworkFX in July, the unit has engaged in discussions with 15 different standards groups and industry consortia, according to NetworkFX president Oscar Marcia. It has signed several customers, but Marcia declined to identify them while the agreements are in final legal review.

“We bring 12 years of experience running an actual PKI,” Marcia said. “We are using the efficiencies we’ve learned over the years to bring on other customers at incremental cost to us.”

NetworkFX is targeting industries including banking, consumer electronics, healthcare and utilities. The CableLabs-developed PKI, which it claims is one of the largest in the world, can be applied to any networked device, including laptop PCs, smartphones, tablets, Blu-ray Disc players, game consoles, connected TVs, alarm systems and medical devices.

According to CableLabs, it has never had to revoke a key for a single one of those 200 million devices (meaning the PKI has not been hacked).

“CableLabs has a great history of providing a security model that programmers are confident can be kept secure… and we have received a lot of requests outside the cable industry to use that same approach,” CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney said in an interview. McKinney, previously CTO of HP’s Personal Systems group, took over as head of CableLabs on June 1.

NetworkFX, which currently is based at CableLabs’ Louisville, Colo., headquarters, has three full-time employees including Marcia. In addition, 10 other CableLabs staffers have contributed to the unit.

Marcia is currently in a dual role, maintaining his previous position as vice president of security for CableLabs. He joined CableLabs in 2001, after previously working for Deloitte & Touche.

Competitors for NetworkFX include PKI providers including Entrust and Symantec, as well as consulting firms, according to Marcia.

NetworkFX promises quick deployment, with the ability to get a full PKI up and running in just days. The system can scale up to millions of device certificates, and NetworkFX will guarantee service-level agreements backed by a high-security facility with specially trained and screened personnel, redundant systems, disaster recovery and archiving.

Groups or consortia that use the NetworkFX PKI can manage certificates using a Web-based interface, so that no PKI or security experience is needed. Certificate requests can be made with a one-step ordering process, according to the CableLabs unit.

CableLabs applied for a trademark on “NetworkFX” with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Dec. 11, 2011. More info on NetworkFX and its services is available at