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We have several developers who all currently work on individual components a multi module application. We are worried that anyone developer could steal the entire codebase as right now they need to clone the entire git repo to setup a local copy.

Is there any emulation software that can run the app for them but only allow them to work on for example a specific module or folder.

Or is there any recommendations on what would be the best way to prevent someone to from just stealing everything

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You can potentially structure your project so that each developer can only see the "released" or snapshots of interface files, (depending on the language(s) in use), and the binary builds of the other components that match the version of those but there is no specific software that I know of to manage this.

Git, mercurial & Subversion can all support this way of working, probably other VCS systems can do as well, via the Access Control methods but it is primarily a structuring issue.

For C/C++ you would have, available to each developer, something such as:

-- Project_Dir
 |- Libraries & their includes
 |- Public-Interfaces (.h/.hpp files)
 |- Built_Components (.obj & .lib files) preferably mapped to a shared folder rather than in VCS
 |- Current_Dev_Component

This is actually quite a common pattern where different tools are needed to build different components or even just for speed of building.

However, if you really don't trust your developers not to steal the code then, presumably, you also don't trust them to not include time-bombs, viruses, etc. so either need to get different developers or move into a different industry.

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If you have such a relationship with your developers that you suspect them of stealing code, I feel pity for you.

No technical solution is the silver bullet, because you are trying to solve a social problem by technical means and that never works.

Sure you can restrict their access to parts of the code, but this approach not only will make it harder for them to work, but just collapses to shambles if you assume they will team up and steal parts of the code each :)

Your option is to make them sign an NDA so you could spank them if you discover IP theft post factum.

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