Software Protection Dongles And Embedded Systems
2012-06-13 John Poulson
There are plenty of reasons to use a software protection dongle even when you're running an embedded system. Some people believe that embedded systems are immune to piracy because the software has to be tied to a specific piece of equipment.
But piracy may not be the primary concern for embedded systems; theft of intellectual property is. Increasingly today the machine is only a tool; it's the IP that the machine uses that has huge value. After all, a competitor can take your machine apart and see how it works. From that information they can build a competitor, knock-off, or even possibly improve on it. However, the software that makes the machine really valuable is a different matter.
We're finding an increased interest in using CodeMeter as a protection device for IP - basically the customer uses a CmStick or CmCard with additional flash RAM and stores their IP on the RAM in encrypted form; only the presence of a valid license will decrypt it. Further, a password can be placed on the CodeMeter software protection dongle preventing access in the event it falls into the wrong hands. That's two factor authentication.
A typical use for this is commercial weaving systems that make polo-style shirts or tee shirts. The patterns and/or embroidery on those shirts may represent valuable IP (for example, the pattern to make a logo). Preventing the data from falling into the hands of counterfeitors makes it harder for fake shirts to be produced. In this case the CodeMeter software protection dongle can store not only the programs to drive the weaving machine but also the IP in the form of designs or logos.
Sr. Account Manager
John went to work back in 1987 for what arguably might be the first company in the world to offer a way of protecting software with hardware. This company developed a "back-plane" device to protect a proprietary operating system for a Data General computer. He has since worked for several software security / licensing companies and beginning in 1999, with Wibu-Systems. He has seen the technology move from simple laser holes burned into 5-1/4" floppy disks to the innovative, sophisticated, encryption based smart card technology, first introduced to the world in the CodeMeter platform.