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Patent Pipeline: Securing IoT

By: Alec Schibanoff

There is a way to see into the future without a crystal ball, psychic power or a time machine. Just look at the most recently issued patents. New technologies are patented by their inventors – corporate R&D staff, university professors and students, and independent inventors – and the patented technologies of today are the technologies that will be launched tomorrow, next week, next month or next year

In this installment of Patent Pipeline, we take a look at the latest patents covering IoT security. As more and more “things” are networked together into the ever-growing Internet of “Things,” keeping those networks secure will be a greater and greater challenge. As more and more devices are added to an Iot network, the opportunity for that network to be hacked grows exponentially. And when devices from different businesses or organizations are networked together, there will need to be some type of universal inter-organizational technology that will protect the network from intruders.

We immediately think of terrorists breaking into our secure networks, and that is a genuine threat to consider. It has been assumed for years that terrorists could, for example, bring down the U.S. electrical grid, and that would leave us helpless. It was not terrorists but Mother Nature that brought down the Puerto Rican power grid, and we see the results.

In addition to terrorists, there is always the threat of hackers breaking into an IoT network and demanding payment from the affected businesses. It is, unfortunately, no longer a rare event for hackers to break into websites and past firewalls to steal sensitive data from an e-commerce business or financial institution.

And then there are competitors. For many years, it has been a common practice in Corporate America for businesses to hire competitive intelligence consultants who would – among other activities – go through the trash of competitors looking for discarded memos, business plans and other documents. Infiltrating a competitor’s IoT to find out what that company is up to is easier and far less smelly that getting it from dumpsters. Unethical competitors could infiltrate an IoT network with the goal of reducing a company’s abilities to serve its customers, damaging the company’s reputation and driving customers to the competitors.

Besides terrorists, hackers and competitors, there are disgruntled ex-employees and just plain nut cases to worry about!

Technology has been developed and patented in just the last year that addresses the threat of infiltration of an IoT network using several different approaches. Five recently issued U.S. patents show us the latest technologies and methodologies in the area of Internet-of-Things security.

Unique Identifier to Authenticate Messages

First up is U.S. Patent No. 9,319,404 for “Security for the Internet of Things.” It is the first of two patents from independent inventor Jerome Svigals, and it was issued last April. This patent includes two hardware-based and software-controlled solutions.

The invention covered by this patent includes an application control device that controls another device from a remote location. The remote device is coupled to the device that is being controlled, and it has two elements – an action portion and a security portion that contains a unique identifier. The application control device includes a rolling transaction code generator that is adapted to assign a unique rolling transaction code each time the application control device attempts to control the action portion of the remote device. 

The invention can also be configured so that two or more devices communicate with each other over a network without human intervention. The system consists of a sending device that is adapted to send messages over the network to at least one receiving device, and each sending device is connected to the network via a sending intelligent chip, while each receiving device is coupled to the network via a receiving intelligent chip. The sending intelligent chip appends an “identifier” to each message that emanates from the sending device associated with it.



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