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. 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.

How does a secure web gateway work?

An SWG works by inspecting all internet traffic entering your network and scanning it for malicious threats. They detect web-based threats and filter out traffic that does not comply with a set of security policies. If any malicious 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.

When a security web gateway is in place, a network user will come through it first instead of connecting directly to a website. The SWG would then undertake security measures such as URL filtering, malicious content inspection, malware protection, and web access control to ensure a safe visit. 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.

SWG vs firewall & CASB

A firewall is designed primarily to protect your internal network from external threats and attacks. It achieves this by controlling which ports are open, who can access what resources, and which protocols are used to communicate with your network. On the other hand, a secure web gateway is a more advanced tool that adds an extra layer of security by inspecting all incoming traffic for malicious content before it reaches your firewall.

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.

Key Benefits of using a Secure Web Gateway

  • Enhance visibility - Help eliminate your SSL and firewall's blind spots. Provide granular control over how the network or application are 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 should I look for in an SWG solution?

SWGs can come at different costs depending on their features and capabilities. The following is a list of functions, features, and capabilities you should consider choosing (or omitting) when choosing a secure web gateway solution for your organization, depending on your budget and security and operational needs.

  • Cloud protection - Even if your organization hasn't switched to cloud yet, chances are it will in the next few years. Choosing a cloud-based SWG instead of a data center-based SWG with no cloud compatibility would probably make more sense in 2023.
  • Ease of distribution & management - Look for products that offer easy distribution and do not require manual installation and update on each individual workstation. Look for features like single-dashboard management and integration with other security tools to save your IT team time.
  • CASB, DLP, and firewall features - Some newer comprehensive SWGs offer features that are usually found in CASB, DLP, and firewalls that might be useful for your organization. Choosing a more comprehensive SWG could help you save costs from having to invest in multiple security tools.

Sangfor IAG - Secure Web Gateway & Web Filtering Solution

If you're looking for an 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.

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. Watch our introduction video and download our brochure to learn more about Sangfor IAG, or jump on a chat with our security experts to talk in-depth about a holistic and tailored security solution for your organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Like configuring any other security tools, you should always back up your configurations before making changes to your policies. Test new versions of SWGs before rolling them out into production.

In a typical environment, 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 IAG and NGAF, please refer to this blog webpage. https://www.sangfor.com/blog/cybersecurity/ngaf-and-iam-a-perfect-amalgamation

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