Shielding Intellectual Property from Cybercriminals with Industrial Data Security

This Research Highlight points out the role that ecosystem players, such as industrial operators, security vendors, and related partners, must play in order to keep sensitive data, such as registered patents, design blueprints, trade secrets, and formulas safe.

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Market Overview

  • Countries with the highest number of Internet of Things (IoT) connections will face the greatest threat to intellectual property cybercrime. These countries include France, China, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, India, and a number of Western European nations.
  • By 2026, ABI Research expects the United States to have more than 331 million IoT connections, followed by 232.5 million connections in China.
  • Industrial blockchain, a crucial encryption technology for intellectual property protection, will grow at a 42.3% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2022 and 2027—reaching US$2.4 billion in revenue for the year 2027.
  • The top three industrial sectors for blockchain are transport & storage (US$708.8 million in revenue in 2027), retail & consumer (US$625.5 million), and food & beverage (US$500.4 million).
  • As found in ABI Research’s Digital Authentication and Embedded Security Market Data (MD-DAES-111), there will be 1.4 billion embedded security shipments in 2026 that are Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) solutions. For authentication Integrated Circuits (ICs), that number will be even higher—at 1.8 billion shipments in 2026.

“Industrial IP theft occurs at three main stages in the industrial process: 1) at the design and planning stage, 2) during manufacturing, and 3) post-manufacturing when a product is in the market. Cyberthreat actors will attempt to steal sensitive data, design blueprints, formulas, trade secrets, or any other valuable asset at all three stages.” – Michael M. Amiri, Senior Analyst at ABI Research


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Key Decision Items

Minimize the Blast Radius of a Potential Data Breach

Minimizing the “blast radius” of a potential intellectual property data breach is one of the most important actions an industrial operator can take when it comes to cybersecurity. Simply put, the fewer users who interact with sensitive data, the less likely the data will fall into the wrong hands.

Two key deployments to consider include the principle of “least privilege” and the concept of zero trust. In the principle of least privilege, user accounts within an organization are only authorized to access the data that they need. This way, in the event an account is hacked, the harm will not be as adverse or widespread. For good measure, companies could also protect intellectual property by deploying a flagging system that records every instance a document is shared with other user accounts or personal accounts.

Under the concept of zero trust, every user and application—even those inside the organization’s network—is viewed as a potential security threat to intellectual property. In this regard, every data access request entails authentication, with criteria being based on things like the data a user seeks to see, user location, user privileges, and identity. The idea of the zero trust model is to understand that one-time validation is simply not secure enough; intellectual property protection requires consistent authorization to ensure the potential blast radius of a breach is minimal.

Industrial operators need to distinguish between outside and inside threats and design an access hierarchy where trade secrets are only accessible to the few that need the data to perform their duties.

Train Employees on Intellectual Property Security Best Practices

People are the most significant intellectual property security vulnerability that exists in an organization. This makes standards like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (NCF) all the more important for U.S. companies to follow. Employees that learn about cybersecurity best practices will be able to identify intellectual property threats and respond to them accordingly.

In Europe, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) provides cybersecurity instructions and certification schemes to confirm that an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) product, process, or service has been certified in conformity with European Union (EU) guidelines. Similarly, organizations can further reduce the risk of human error to their intellectual property by checking out the Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) frameworks and best practices for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and systems.

Address Intellectual Property Security from Many Angles

There is no single technology solution that will alleviate all of an organization’s concerns surrounding intellectual property theft. Thus, a wide array of strategies should be leveraged, including data encryption, Universal Serial Bus (USB) management, compartmentalization of data, access management strategies, blockchain technology, and partner selection best practices. These strategies can be applied to the design phase, manufacturing secrets, supply chain visibility, and other operational stages to make intellectual property more resilient to cyberthreats.

Cybersecurity Vendors Need to Emphasize Their Commitment to Intellectual Property Security

It’s important for cybersecurity vendors, notably those providing Identity and Access Management (IAM) or encryption services, to stress their focus on intellectual property and protecting trade secrets. Some stakeholders are not aware of the role that cybersecurity vendors play in intellectual property security. Therefore, make sure enterprises know that intellectual property security is natively integrated into your typical Information Technology (IT)/Operational Technology (OT) solutions.

Manufacturing Partners Must Educate Clients on the Dangers of Intellectual Property Theft

For Hardware Security Module (HSM) vendors, it’s paramount that manufacturing clients understand the dangers of intellectual property theft. In this respect, vendors should communicate the fact that intellectual property security should be addressed in the same vein as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) (e.g., health records, credit card information, and Social Security numbers).

Given the high costs of intellectual property theft, HSM solutions would be highly valuable in the eyes of the manufacturer (once the client realizes the potential fallout of a data breach). HSMs for root of trust injection to sensitive data offer secure programming and provisioning solutions at the manufacturing stage. To drive demand for intellectual property security solutions in the manufacturing space, security providers should further educate various industries about the risks and costs of intellectual property theft.

Key Market Players to Watch

Dig Deeper for the Full Picture

To learn more about how to develop a reliable industrial design strategy that reduces the risk of intellectual property theft and to identify the current solution ecosystem, download ABI Research’s Industrial Data Security: Protecting Intellectual Property research report.

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This content is part of the company’s Industrial Cybersecurity Research Service.

Research report download on protecting industrial intellectual property