For e-business, USPS licenses PKI service with Cylink's NetAuthority

For e-business, USPS licenses PKI service with Cylink's NetAuthority

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Postal Service has licensed public-key infrastructure technology from Cylink Corp. for new electronic business services.

Cylink's NetAuthority is the commercial version of a PKI system developed by the Santa Clara, Calif., company for USPS' PC Postage program. Cylink retained rights to the technology that came out of the four-year program, and the five-year deal signed last month lets the Postal Service use the commercial version for its future online offerings.

The deal, worth an estimated $3 million a year to Cylink, is the first license agreement for the new product.

NetAuthority lets USPS issue and manage digital certificate software that confirms the identities of parties exchanging information or conducting business online. The certificates access a set of public and private keys that can encrypt, decrypt and digitally sign the exchanges.

USPS' PC Postage program implemented the Cylink PKI in August. Private vendors sell the online postage, which can be downloaded and printed on a user's printer much like metered postage.

According to researcher International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., PC Postage earned $8.2 million in the last four months of last year. IDC has estimated PC Postage revenue at $300 million this year and $600 million next year.

On the dotted line

'We provide the digital certificate to each of the PC Postage vendors,' said Elaine Rimel, the Postal Service's manager for new e-business programs. 'We sign each certificate issued.' The certificates ensure the authenticity of the two-dimensional bar codes generated as postage.

USPS already has other uses in mind for NetAuthority.

'One of the opportunities we will pilot is for nonprofit mailers,' Rimel said.

Nonprofit organizations have to be certified to pay lower rates. The USPS-issued digital certificates could sign nonprofits' online requests for the special rates, Rimel said.

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