Garrett Bekker, analyst at New York-based 451 Research LLC, said that while Skyhigh has some unique aspects to their technology, several vendors already offer encryption gateways for cloud applications.
"They're not the only ones looking to separate keys from encryption," he said. "CipherCloud and Vaultive have been doing this for a good five or six years."
Boston-based Vaultive, Inc., offers a cloud encryption gateway that is typically hosted on premises, but that the customer can also run, on, say, Amazon cloud servers, or get it hosted for them by a regional reseller.
End users trying to connect to Office 365 would have a custom domain name that they would use, and would be blocked from logging into Office 365 directly, said Doug Lane, Vaultive's VP of product marketing. Email clients, both on PCs and on corporate and personal mobile devices, can also be configured to go through the gateway, he said.
"It seems like their patent is pretty broad and a lot of companies are doing this already," he said.
"We can’t comment on the specifics of Skyhigh patent, but we don’t believe it is a game changer," said Willy Leichter, VP of marketing at San Jose-based CipherCloud. "They definitely do not have a patent on the entire concept of an encryption-decryption proxy in a hosted environment. CipherCloud and a number of other vendors have been doing that for years."
Leichter added that his company does more than just offer a scalable, transparent way to securely connect users with cloud service providers -- CipherCloud can also perform searches, sorts, and reports on data while it is still encrypted, with 17 patents on various techniques for doing so.
Inline integration, which protects data on a field-by-field basis, is available for many popular business cloud applications, including Salesforce, Force.com, ServiceNow, SAP, SuccessFactors and Adobe Analytics. In addition, there is also API integration for cloud-based collaboration and file sharing services.
Even Amazon has an offering in this space, said Michael Nye, a patent attorney at Harness, Dickey & Pierce, P.L.C.
Back in 2013, Amazon launched a hardware-based security appliance for managing encryption keys for its cloud customers.
However, the Skyhigh patent offers a lot of specifics, he said, and did not immediately strike him as being too broad. Plus, it was reviewed by an experienced examiner.
According to legal information company Justia, Dant Shaifer-Harriman has dealt with more than 200 patents, many of them in the area of information security.
"For what it’s worth, I have prosecuted an application in front of examiner Harriman," Nye added. "He definitely understands encryption, so I wouldn’t be surprised if his patentability determination was accurate."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.