How to protect your organization from web-based threats - Close look at secure web gateways

Cyber threats have never been as big of a risk to companies as they are now, with the pandemic causing more than a 3 times increase in reported data breaches across the world. As company resources are accessed not only with company hardware on-premises, but also by remote workers from their own devices, many new security vulnerabilities arise. To protect themselves, businesses introduce Secure Web Gateways as part of their security protocols.

Cyber threats have never been as big of a risk to companies as they are now, with the pandemic causing more than a 3 times increase in reported data breaches across the world. As company resources are accessed not only with company hardware on-premises, but also by remote workers from their own devices, many new security vulnerabilities arise. To protect themselves, businesses introduce Secure Web Gateways as part of their security protocols. With a Secure Web Gateway, companies can control traffic and access to corporate resources, based on customizable policies that help prevent unauthorized data transfer.


Let’s see what SWGs are all about:


What is a Secure Web Gateway?

A Secure Web Gateway, or SWG, is a cyber security solution that can effectively protect company resources and enforce specific security policies for each and every access attempt. An SWG acts as a buffer between your employees and the Internet, delivered either as an on-premise or cloud-based network security solution.

Each web request sent by any of your users or devices is thoroughly inspected before allowed through, carefully compared against the company security policy to make sure no unauthorized attempts or malicious software get through. In case of an attack, SWG can identify infected devices and take appropriate measures to prevent further access and minimize damage.

When delivered over the cloud, an SWG can be used by remote workers from all over the world without any dedicated hardware and software licenses. Even when working far from the central offices, employees will still be protected by company security policy, and no connections that would circumvent the Secure Web Gateway are allowed access.

Key features of a Secure Web Gateway

SWGs feature a variety of security measures that are implemented to protect sensitive company resources from any outside interference and access. The main features of a Secure Web Gateway include:

  • Application Control - an SWG will enforce corporate web security policies based on user identity, preventing or limiting access when necessary. This limits the possibility of data breaches to minimum, as no connection can be made without prior authentication.
  • Antivirus and Anti-malware Protection - SWG solutions constantly monitor connected devices and the network for viruses and malware threats, responding effectively before they manage to put your company at risk.
  • URL Filtering - many leaks and breaches happen because of accessing a suspicious website by remote employees - a Secure Web Gateway can enforce URL filtering to remote devices, preventing employees from accessing malicious web content.
  • Data Loss Prevention - by constant monitoring of all traffic and data movement, DLP protocols can prevent sensitive resources from being unintentionally leaked outside of the company network.
  • Real-Time Traffic Control - SWGs can monitor the web traffic in real time, effectively blocking every connection attempt from sources unauthorized by the security policy. These policies can be freely modified, allowing administrators to implement complex protocols suited to their specific business needs.


SWG - an essential part of the SASE framework

To protect a complex company, a single Secure Web Gateway might not be enough - while it provides extensive preventive and access control capabilities, it lacks proper workflow management and logging functions. As companies grow, their security needs might increase above a simple SWG - and implementing a SASE framework might be the best course of action.

SASE, or Secure Access Service Edge, is a novel cybersecurity technology, designed to deliver a secure wide area network through a cloud-based framework. SASE allows secure and quick access to company web resources, without backhauling data to a central server which decreases performance.

SWGs are an essential part of the SASE framework - together with various other security measures, SASE offers comprehensive threat prevention and access control capabilities. SASE makes use of Zero-Trust Network Access, or ZTNA, which offers secure access to any resources from remote locations, allowing no access unless a device has been properly identified, and even then granting minimum required access.

The cloud-native architecture of SASE provides highly scalable and flexible solutions, easily adaptable to the specific business needs of each company, with support for not only PCs and mobile devices, but also edge computing solutions, IoT devices, cloud data centers, and more.


The benefits of using Secure Web Gateways as part of SASE framework

SASE is a complex solution for all-round company network security, efficiently utilizing SWGs as part of its framework. According to Gartner, who first coined the term SASE, the technology is an innovative evolution of SD-WAN technology, and could become the basis of more than half of enterprise network systems’ security protocols.

SASE offers high-speed, high-security, and a lot of flexibility. As the company grows, the extent of SASE services can be extended, covering vulnerabilities as they arise. The whole system can be controlled from a single-pane-of-glass platform, providing administrators with easy access to customization and controls. No additional hardware or software policies are required, and every update and maintenance session is applied on-the-fly without any downtime.


Secure Web Gateways FAQ

What is the difference between a SWG and CASB? While SWGs offer wider protection, they might lack in API integration and granular control. CASB solutions deployed as part of the SASE framework offer better flexibility and easier management than a simple SWG.

What are the shortcomings of Secure Web Gateways? On their own, SWGs can be complex to manage and create performance issues when applied on a larger scale. They might also lack configuration and analytics tools. Implementing an SWG as part of a SASE framework solves these issues, creating a single, coherent security system with extensive functionality