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IoT Innovation: Solutions to Efficiently Protect your Intellectual Property

IoT security is a growing concern among manufacturers who need to protect their products from malicious attacks that can compromise their devices and have adverse consequences for their users. However, ‘ ‘some attacks focus on innovative programs theft. Companies, especially startups, tend to minimize or even ignore this risk because of the lack of time, competency, and funds. Still, intellectual property is one of the main business asset of a company and its theft can jeopardize the future of a business.

To help you navigate the complexity of IoT security and IP protection, here are some explanations on why you should care and how you can secure and protect your devices and your intellectual property.

Why is it essential to secure and protect your IoT devices?

If the first connected devices, such as surveillance cameras, operated on closed networks and were therefore somewhat protected, this is no longer the case today. As connected devices have become ubiquitous and directly connected to the Internet, protecting them has become a real headache.

The attack surface of a connected device is wider than devices operating in closed networks: external and logical attacks become more and more frequent and easier to be performed, andphysical access to the device is no more needed. The industry is switching from perimetral security to a zero-trust security model, where all the communication and the devices themselves are more secure.

Indeed, how do you enhance the level of security of your devices to resist against a hostile takeover while ensuring collaboration and interconnectivity?

The security and protection issue thus goes far beyond the problem of personal data and privacy; it threatens the very survival of businesses. Developing an innovation can represent years of investment and work. Protecting your intellectual property allows you to maintain a competitive advantage and make your R&D profitable.

Intellectual property theft: a significant threat for IoT developers

Intellectual property theft occurs in two ways:

  • Reverse engineering: cybercriminals can deconstruct the programming logic of an application with software called debuggers or disassemblers and then recreate it identically.
  • Confidentiality breach: the software editor is forced to provide the source code of innovation when partnering with a manufacturer to produce the connected device.

Unfortunately, there is a substantial lack of awareness of this risk in the industry. If ransomware piracy techniques are well publicized, program theft is much less so because thieves have no interest in disclosing their actions, their objective being to exploit the software without the owners’ knowledge.

If the problem is a threat to a country’s innovation and economic growth, it also affects its public organizations regarding personal data, national security, and public health.

Threats to IoT security and intellectual property are pushing governments to legislate

To help companies define the appropriate level of protection needed for their products and consumers ensure they are using secure devices, the 2019 EU Cybersecurity Act sets a cybersecurity regulatory framework and certification system.

Among other things, it establishes a framework for certifying products, processes, and services valid throughout the EU. Certifications are issued by accredited agencies and guide companies toward the most appropriate type of protection for their product.

This directive is not only beneficial for individuals but also companies. It allows all users of connected devices to be reassured that their data is protected.

How do you protect your IoT devices and intellectual property?

Innovations must be protected throughout the manufacturing process until the end of their lifespan. However, although safeguarding intellectual property is and has always been a fundamental part of doing business, doing so with innovations in the IoT field is quite complex. There is a lot to consider, especially when dealing with connected systems that include hardware and proprietary software.

There are two aspects toIP protection for IoT devices:

  • Copyright and patent registration: taking all legal steps to protect your innovation before it is on the market.
  • Functional protection: prevents misappropriation and theft of the innovation by attackers/hackers when it is in use and therefore connected.

Copyright, patent and legal action

Registering a patent, a trademark or copyright provides proof of authorship and ownership of innovation. There are several levels of legal protection for your creations:

  • trademark
  • design
  • data
  • software

If patents allow you to protect technical innovations efficiently, it must satisfy several criteria:

  • relate to a patentable subject matter
  • suitable for industrial application
  • new
  • involve an original activity (which is not apparent)

With a patent, you have legal recourse in case of theft. However, such procedures last several years and cost money and energy, thus, not used for innovation. For this reason, legal protection must always be accompanied by a technical solution to prevent theft. It’s a bit like protecting your car: although you have a registration document proving ‘ ‘it’s yours, you might decide to install a security system so that it ‘doesn’t get stolen.

Functional protection

Intellectual property protection is part of the overall protection of a connected device and therefore requires the implementation of technological barriers in addition to legal obstacles. For example, in the case of a connected industrial thermostat, you want to protect the device against intellectual property theft and malicious acts such as attempts to modify the operating temperature.

The type of protection will therefore depend on the type of device and the nature of the threat, which could be:

  • Software theft or takeover (virus/malware)
  • Identity fraud
  • Data theft or falsification

There are two main functional protection technologies:

  • Encryption and cryptographic signature: both works together; encryption ensures confidentiality and integrity of data, and cryptographic signatures identify which device is sending the data.
  • Obfuscation: prevents software reverse engineering by making it difficult or impossible to read, modify and understand the executed code. It protects your software while keeping the possibility to create partnerships and cooperation with other companies without risks.


Quarkslab created QShield to address this issue of protecting intellectual property through technology. It is a cybersecurity solution that protects your code against reverse engineering and confidentiality breach by embedding advanced obfuscation and protection layers. Obfuscation, White-box cryptography, digital vault protect your innovations against cyber security attacks, Intellectual property theft and and data theft.

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How to protect code and data confidentiality and integrity during the entire device lifecycle

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