Understanding the Importance of Secure Web Gateways

A secure web gateway (SWG) is a security solution that protects organizations from unsecured Internet traffic and cyberattacks. It filters and identifies malware, phishing scams, and other security threats to prevent them from entering the internal network.

A SWG analyzes incoming web traffic for suspicious patterns and logs all activities. It then applies corporate security policies, ensuring authenticated traffic adheres to the organization’s security protocols and requirements.

Web Application Firewall

SWG security measures use various technologies to block, monitor, and protect the network against threats and malicious code. These include DNS and URL filtering, anti-virus and malware detection, and content filtering. A good SWG solution will detect and stop many attacks, including ransomware drop sites, phishing sites, and malware command and control servers.

It also blocks unencrypted data uploads to prevent sensitive information such as medical records, credit card details, and confidential files from the organization’s network. A good SWG will offer a variety of policies that can be applied at the web application level, such as blocking all non-encrypted traffic and restricting and limiting data transfer based on file size or by network user. This ensures that no unauthorized data is sent outside the network and helps organizations comply with data protection regulations and corporate policies.

An on-premises SWG solution can be installed and managed locally within the organization’s infrastructure, or a cloud-based SWG solution can be hosted and managed externally in a secure cloud environment. A cloud-based SWG provides the same functionality as an on-premises SWG but with more flexibility and scale for today’s dynamic cloud environments.

When deployed as a standalone solution, an SWG can become one more point product that security teams must manage and maintain. However, when integrated into a SASE architecture with zero trust network access (ZTNA) and client-side attack surface assessment (CASB), an SWG can provide robust protection in a simple-to-manage way.

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

A Secure Web Gateway is a type of firewall that protects your company’s internet use. When employees attempt to access a website or web application, the SWG intercepts and inspects the request to ensure the content doesn’t violate pre-established security policies. This allows the SWG to block or redirect a user to another site or application, depending on how the threat is assessed.

SWGs are designed to detect malware and other browser-based attacks. They can also monitor cloud-based applications to ensure employees don’t accidentally breach corporate security policy when using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) applications outside the organization’s firewall.

As part of their role in the cybersecurity infrastructure, IPSs must often be updated to account for new vulnerabilities, threats, and attack campaigns. They use signature-based detection to identify specific patterns in the code of exploits and anomaly-based detection that takes random samples of network traffic and compares them to a baseline performance level.

An IPS can detect certain types of malicious activity and take action based on predefined formulas. This can include blocking a worm, stopping the operation of a compromised machine, quarantining a file, or other actions. It can also be used to prevent evasive techniques that threaten the use of your company’s resources. An IPS can close the holes left open by firewalls and add protection to your network.

Endpoint Protection Firewall or Application

Shadow IT is a serious threat to business productivity and data security. SWG solutions can identify and monitor unauthorized applications on employee devices and prevent them from accessing company networks. This can help mitigate the risk of malware attacks, such as ransomware, that encrypt user files and demand payment to decrypt them.

SWGs protect against threats by analyzing and inspecting web traffic to detect suspicious behavior or malware, preventing them from entering the network. Typically, they use techniques such as URL filtering, sandboxing (executing potentially malicious code in a controlled environment to test for harmful effects), and behavioral analysis to identify threats.

Modern SWGs can also provide granular access control to specific web applications, protecting the organization’s sensitive and confidential information while adhering to industry compliance standards like PCI and GDPR. These solutions often utilize zero trust network access (ZTNA) to ensure users are securely connected to the corporate network only from approved endpoints.

In addition, SWGs offer robust protection for many BYOD devices in the workplace. For example, SWG solutions can filter BYOD devices to ensure they do not introduce new security risks into the corporate network beyond traditional firewalls’ reach. This includes limiting or blocking access to potentially dangerous websites and detecting and monitoring the use of P2P applications—popular for sharing music, movies, and games—to avoid unwanted data leakage.

P2P Coverage

A P2P application is a file-sharing program for music, movies, games, or other files. These types of programs can lead to unauthorized data exfiltration, and a good SWG should be able to monitor or block P2P traffic in real-time.

This can be done by decoding thousands of apps and cloud services alongside web traffic to understand content and context, enabling granular policy controls and contextual threat protection. A modern SWG solution also analyzes user behavior and can help protect from threats by bypassing traditional security measures by leveraging the device to access sensitive information.

This is a common way for malware to enter a network, so an SWG should be able to detect suspicious activity and respond accordingly. In addition to URL filtering, a modern SWG should have a sandboxing feature that executes suspicious or potentially malicious files and programs in a safe environment to detect whether they contain any malware code. This helps reduce the risk of data theft or system infection.

In addition, an SWG should inspect HTTPS traffic to prevent the transmission of malware or other threats via a safe channel that goes uninspected. A secure gateway should also provide granular controls that allow administrators to limit or block access to specific web applications, like video conferencing or SaaS business apps. This can help improve productivity and ensure compliance with security policies and industry standards.