Sitting between the network and users, a Secure Web Gateway (SWG) prevents employee devices from dragging in ransomware, malware, and viruses on the bottom of their shoes, while ensuring employees have access to all the information they need to work productively. With the rise in cybercrime, it is no surprise that SWGs have been growing in demand over the past several years according to a 2024 industry report by Mordor Intelligence. What are SWG’s and why are they so widely recognized as vital to modern business? We are glad you asked!

What is a Secure Web Gateway?

A secure web gateway (SWG) is a security solution that protects your organization's internet traffic. Modern SWG services are most often deployed to protect an organization's staff and network users from malicious websites, viruses, and malware. SWGs are usually deployed at the perimeter of an organization's network, acting as a checkpoint between the internal network and public internet traffic. They can also support the organization's cloud security and strengthen its overall defense.

What is a Secure Web Gateway (SWG)

Why do you need a secure web gateway?

With an increasing number of cyber-attacks occurring every day, it's critical to ensure your organization is secure from external threats and malicious traffic. A report in 2023 noted that ransomware affects 1 in 44 organizations worldwide, exploiting their gateway security vulnerabilities to achieve data theft. An SWG provides an extra layer of security by inspecting all incoming traffic for potential threats before allowing it to enter the network. Additionally, many organizations use SWGs to help enforce internet usage policies, such as blocking certain websites or limiting access to specific types of content.

In addition, for organizations, remote workers and mobile users need the same protection from threats as those in the offices, and with the number of applications growing daily, protection becomes more difficult without a secure web gateway. Organizations use SWGs to provide secure internet access when users are disconnected from the security of the internal business network.

How do secure web gateways work?

An SWG works by inspecting all internet traffic entering your network and scanning it for malicious threats. An SWG is installed in the gateway between the network and user endpoints. All traffic between users and networks must pass through the SWG, which monitors the traffic for malicious activity and code, web application use, and all user or non-user-attempted URL connections. This ensures that all information passed through these points remains secure.

They detect web-based threats and filter out traffic that does not comply with a set of security policies. If any malicious code or content is detected, the SWG will block it from entering the network. Additionally, if you’ve set up a policy for filtering out inappropriate content, the SWG will also be able to identify and block those sites.

What are some of the features of SWGs?

Secure web gateways offer a range of features to provide robust protection and control over internet traffic within an organization. Ideally,  the features of your SWGs should be aimed towards reducing your attack surface, supporting digital transformation initiatives, securing remote workers and branch offices, safeguarding critical data and operations, and strengthening your overall security infrastructure.  Here are some brief introductions to the functions that SWGs perform:

  • URL filtering: This function of SWG is often used to help organizations block websites and content that are related to gambling, pornography, violence, terrorism, and malware distribution sites.
  • Anti-Malware scanning & protection: When traffic is scanned for threats, the SWG will detect any viruses or other types of malware before they reach the internal network. Once detected, it will prevent them from entering the system.
  • Web access & application control: You can institute policies that allow only certain websites to be visited by internal users. This way, you can make sure your staff are not accessing applications and services that interfere with work. This function can also help an organization limit and control the bandwidth used by specific applications, such as Spotify and YouTube.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP): Aside from scanning traffic coming in, SWGs can also detect when unauthorized data is being transmitted out of the network. If any such activity is detected, the SWG will block it from leaving and alert the administrators for further investigation. For example, some companies set up their Data loss prevention (DLP) rules to detect outgoing credit card numbers and confidential information in employee emails and attachments to stop them from leaking.
  • Antivirus and Antimalware: SWGs incorporate antivirus and antimalware capabilities to protect against viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, and adware. Real-time scanning and blocking of malicious files from web content help safeguard end-user devices and networks.
  • DNS Security: SWGs address security risks associated with DNS (Domain Name System). They identify and disrupt DNS-based attacks, such as command-and-control communication, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and domain hijacking, enhancing overall network security.
  • HTTPS Inspection: As the majority of web traffic is now encrypted using HTTPS, SWGs provide HTTPS inspection capabilities. They decrypt SSL-encrypted traffic passing through the gateway, inspect it for threats, and re-encrypt the content before sending it back to the recipient. This ensures that encrypted traffic is not a blind spot for security monitoring.

SWG vs firewall & Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

A firewall is designed primarily to protect users' internal networks from external threats and attacks.  It monitors and filters network traffic at the packet level, inspecting source and destination IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols. Firewalls primarily focus on securing the network perimeter by allowing or blocking traffic based on these defined rules. They are effective in protecting against unauthorized access and blocking known threats.

On the other hand, while firewalls focus on securing the network infrastructure, secure web gateways focus on securing web traffic and protecting users from web-based threats. SWGs go beyond the basic functions of a firewall by providing additional capabilities such as URL filtering, application control, and threat prevention. They inspect web requests and responses at the application layer, analyzing the content, URLs.

SWG Service Traditional Firewalls
  • Examine the complete request before allowing access
  • Network, web traffic, and application-level protection
  • Screens traffic packets only; do not look at the entire file
  • Usually, network-level protection only (unless you are also using a web application firewall)

SWGs are also often compared to CASBs (Cloud Access Security Broker) due to their similar features. While both can inspect traffic and filter out malicious content, the main difference is that a CASB additionally provides visibility into cloud applications and services. This means that you can view detailed information on which cloud services are being used by your employees and set policies to ensure their security.

SWG Service CASB Solution
  • Some SWG solutions are cloud-based
  • Focus on protecting a corporate & its user's data on various devices
  • Always cloud-based
  • Focus on protecting cloud applications from unauthorized access

SWG service - What are the main benefits?

Choosing and implementing the right SWG solution can bring huge security benefits to a company or organization. In addition to the security features listed above, here are some other benefits and conveniences that SWGs can provide:

  • Enhance visibility - Help eliminate your SSL and firewall's blind spots. Provide granular control over how the network or application is used.
  • Prevent cyber-attacks - Prevent users from accessing malicious websites and prevent malicious files from entering the network. Provide a varying degree of protection against zero-day attacks, suspicious domain extensions, hidden malware, malicious file extensions, etc.
  • Compliance with regulations - Companies that are subject to regulations like HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR must follow strict requirements on how their data is handled. SWGs' granular control over applications and data makes it easy for companies to comply with these requirements at the user level.

What role do SWGs play in regulatory requirement compliance?

Secure web gateways serve as a critical component of an organization's regulatory compliance strategy. They play a significant role in providing the necessary tools, controls, and visibility to help organizations monitor and enforce compliance with regulatory requirements, protect sensitive data, and mitigate the risk of non-compliance-related penalties or reputational damage. Below are some of the ways they help attain compliance. 

  • Data Inspection and Monitoring: SWGs enable thorough inspection of web traffic, including data in transit, to secure potential data leaks, unauthorized sharing of sensitive information, or non-compliant activities. By analyzing and monitoring data flowing through the gateway, SWGs help organizations ensure adherence to regulatory requirements.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP): As secure web gateways incorporate DLP functionality, you help prevent unintentional loss or exposure of critical or sensitive data. They enforce policies that restrict the transmission of sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), or financial data, and provide mechanisms to monitor and control data movement to avoid non-compliance.
  • User Access Controls: SWGs facilitate the enforcement of access controls and acceptable use policies. They can restrict access to specific categories of websites or applications that may violate regulatory requirements or organizational policies. By implementing granular controls based on user identification, secure web gateways help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive resources and ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines.
  • Auditing and Reporting: Another way secure web gateways help with compliance is that they generate detailed logs and reports that capture user activities, web traffic, and policy violations. These audit trails provide organizations with the visibility and documentation necessary for regulatory compliance assessments and audits. By maintaining comprehensive records, SWGs assist organizations in demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements and responding to regulatory inquiries or investigations.
  • Regulatory Standards Alignment: SWGs are designed to align with industry-specific regulatory standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), or Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). They provide the necessary controls and features to help organizations meet the specific requirements outlined in these regulations.
  •  Encryption Inspection: Implementing secure web gateways enables the inspection of encrypted web traffic, including SSL/TLS, to identify and mitigate potential security risks or compliance violations. By decrypting and inspecting encrypted traffic, SWGs ensure that malicious activities or non-compliant behavior are not hidden within encrypted channels, thereby strengthening regulatory compliance efforts.

The Evolution of SWGs

The evolution of secure web gateways has been driven by the changing threat landscape and the increasing complexity of network environments. Over time, SWGs have evolved to address new challenges and incorporate advanced technologies to provide enhanced security and functionality.

In the past, SWGs primarily focused on URL filtering and basic threat prevention capabilities. However, as cyber threats became more sophisticated, SWGs had to adapt to provide better protection. They started incorporating features such as advanced threat prevention, application control, data loss prevention (DLP), antivirus and antimalware, DNS security, and HTTPS inspection. These additional capabilities allowed secure web gateways to provide comprehensive protection against a wide range of threats from the internet, including malware, phishing, data leaks, and DDoS attacks.

Another significant development in the evolution of SWGs is the shift towards cloud-based deployments. Cloud-delivered SWGs offer greater scalability, flexibility, and ease of management compared to traditional on-premises solutions. They enable organizations to secure their web traffic even for remote workers and branch offices without the need for backhauling traffic to a central data center. Cloud-based SWGs also leverage advanced analytics and machine learning to improve threat detection and provide real-time protection.

What are the prospects for SWGs?

he future is bright for secure web gateways. Web security is of utmost importance in the rapidly evolving digital world where information increasingly needs to be accessed remotely, and implementing a strong SWG solution is high on the list for many organizations. As such, the market for these types of solutions will continue to grow over the years, making it crucial that businesses find the best one for their IT security.  Looking toward the future, SWGs are expected to continue evolving to keep pace with emerging threats and technology trends. Some key areas of development include

  • Integration with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): SWGs are likely to be integrated with SASE frameworks, combining network security capabilities with wide-area networking (WAN) capabilities. This integration will provide a unified security and networking solution for distributed organizations.
  • Enhanced threat intelligence and analytics: To keep up with modern threats, SWGs will leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze vast amounts of data and identify new and unknown threats. This will enable proactive threat detection and response.
  • Zero-trust security: When it comes to implementing zero-trust security architectures, SWGs will play a crucial role by providing granular access controls, user authentication, and continuous monitoring of network traffic.
  • Mobile and IoT security: As mobile devices and IoT devices continue to proliferate, secure web gateways will need to adapt to secure the traffic generated by these devices and enforce policies to protect sensitive data.
  • Integration with cloud-native security: The compiled statistics from CloudZero show that cloud computing has been on the rise before 2020, increasing the demand for cloud-native security services. SWGs will seamlessly integrate with cloud-native security solutions to provide holistic protection for cloud-based applications and services.

Are there any challenges to implementing Secure Web Gateway SWGs?

Although there are many benefits to SWGs, organizations should also be aware of the potential challenges they may present for IT teams. If these gateways are deployed as a standalone environment, they may add a layer of complexity to overall security management. On the other hand, if SWGs are integrated with other security technologies, security policies can be enforced more easily - however, this process also requires technical expertise.

Another challenge posed by SWGs is the need to keep on top of updates, as cyber threats continue to evolve. This requires additional time and effort from IT teams to ensure critical upgrades are not missed.

Lastly, organizations might experience performance issues if they utilize older network infrastructures to protect their internet traffic, especially in areas with low bandwidth, which may lead to slower speeds that affect work efficiency.

 How to choose the SWG best fit for your organization

There are plenty of secure web gateway solutions and it can be difficult to narrow down the list. When choosing one for your organization, consider the following factors before deciding which product best fits your needs. 

  • Security Capabilities: The primary purpose of a secure web gateway is to provide robust security for web traffic. Organizations should assess the security features offered by different SWG solutions, such as URL filtering, anti-malware and threat prevention, application control, data loss prevention (DLP), antivirus and antimalware scanning, DNS security, and HTTPS inspection. The SWG should have advanced capabilities to detect and mitigate a wide range of web-based threats.
  • Scalability and Performance: It is crucial to evaluate the scalability and performance of an SWG solution. Organizations should consider the expected volume of internet traffic and the number of concurrent users. The secure web gateway should be able to handle the organization's current and future needs without compromising performance or causing latency issues.
  • Deployment Options Available: SWGs can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a hybrid solution. Organizations should assess their specific requirements and determine the most suitable deployment option. Cloud-based SWGs offer scalability, flexibility, and simplified management, while on-premises solutions provide greater control over data and traffic.
  • Ease of Management: Another point to consider is the ease of management and administration of the SWG product. The SWG should have a user-friendly interface and centralized management capabilities that allow administrators to easily configure policies, monitor traffic, and generate reports. Integration with existing security infrastructure and management tools is also beneficial.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Depending on the industry and location, organizations may have specific compliance and regulatory requirements related to web security. It is crucial to choose a gateway solution that can help meet these requirements, such as facilitating data inspection for potential leakage, providing granular controls for data privacy, and supporting compliance standards like GDPR or HIPAA.
  • Integration with Other Security Solutions: Your gateway should seamlessly integrate with other security solutions deployed within the organization's environment. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), or security information and event management (SIEM) platforms. Integration enables a unified security posture, enhances threat detection and response capabilities, and simplifies overall security management.
  • Vendor Reputation and Support: When selecting an SWG solution, organizations should consider the reputation and track record of the vendor. It is important to choose a reputable vendor that provides regular updates, patches, and support services to address emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

Sangfor IAG - Secure Web Gateway & Web Filtering Solution

If you're looking for a SWG solution that can accommodate modern trends like cloud applications adoption, the move of the hybrid workplace, and increased use of mobile and personal devices for work, look no further than Sangfor IAG. Sangfor Internet Access Gateway was designed to provide comprehensive and secure internet access with high visibility into users, augmented audit, and unified network management, all working together to uncover hidden threats and manage applications running in your network environment. Watch the video to learn more.

Sangfor IAG has garnered significant success and helped many organizations fulfill their needs.

  • RS Pondok Indah (RSPI) is a premium healthcare provider based in Indonesia. Sangfor’s Internet Access Gateway solution ensured that the RS Pondok Indah healthcare group would enjoy complete and simplified resource management while giving the organization improved visibility of internet usage by internal and external users at its hospital sites.
  • J&T Express, a logistics company with the largest shipping volume in Indonesia, has achieved maximum safety and efficiency by utilizing a combination of Sangfor’s security solutions including Endpoint Secure and Internet Access Gateway.
  • Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH) is the first university in Indonesia to offer a liberal arts curriculum. UPH deployed Sangfor Internet Access Gateway to maintain its bandwidth and improve its digital education experience. According to the university, Sangfor’s solutions allowed them to monitor performance and security through reliable, advanced, and user-friendly infrastructure while still being affordable.

Enjoy a well-rounded set of state-of-the-art features like proxy avoidance protection, intelligent traffic management, unified network-wide management of all clients, and precise and accurate application management that enhances your organization's security and makes monitoring and managing a breeze for your IT team. Contact us today to talk in-depth about holistic and tailored security services for your organization.

Sangfor’s Incident Response Services as an Additional Solution

You can never be too prepared for the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Organizations that wish to opt for additional lines of gateway security can consider Sanfor’s Incident Response Services. With Sangfor Incident Response, you gain access to a team of experienced incident responders who have conducted numerous investigations and accumulated over 5000 man-hours in incident response. Our professionals are equipped with the latest knowledge and techniques to handle various types of security incidents effectively.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Malicious files are becoming as prevalent as remote work these days, and without an SWG, risky connections to untrusted WIFI and networks could potentially bring ransomware or malware back to your network. Deploying an SWG will ensure employees have access to all the files they would normally have access to in the office, with all the protection of the network firewall and other security equipment.

Most standard firewalls (like the ones that come with your operating system) do not protect you from threats beyond the network traffic layer. SWGs can help extend this protection by also filtering out malicious URLs, preventing users from downloading suspicious files, scanning email attachments, inspecting encrypted traffic, etc. An SWG does not necessarily replace a firewall but complements it by covering its blind spots.

Just as with all security products, multi-layered security is ideal. Deploying an SWG will certainly go a long way toward protecting your remote users and their devices, and protecting your network from any vulnerabilities they pose, but no security is 100% effective. Consider working with an SWG vendor like Sangfor, who offers many correlated security products, designed to work flexibly with each other or with other vendors’ products.

In a typical environment, Secure Web Gateway (SWG) is used to block access to inappropriate websites or applications, prevent malware infections, and enforce corporate internet compliance. SWG is similar to a firewall in that both prevent malicious activities and provide necessary network security protections. However, the main difference is that SWG emphasizes securing user onboarding and promoting productivity. It is common for an enterprise to use both SWG and firewall to fortify their defense as both of them usually complement each other. For more info on using both Sangfor IAG and Network Secure, please refer to this blog webpage.

Sangfor Technologies of course! For more information on Sangfor IAG security protections and solutions, visit online at, or email us directly at

Sangfor Technologies is an APAC-based, global leading vendor of IT infrastructure solutions specializing in Network Security and Cloud Computing. Visit us at to learn more about Sangfor’s Security solutions, and let Sangfor make your IT simpler, more secure and valuable.

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