A secure web gateway (SWG) is a security solution that prevents unsecured internet traffic from entering an organisation's internal network. It's used by enterprises to protect employees and users from accessing or being infected by malicious websites and web traffic, internet-borne viruses, malware, and other cyber-threats. It also helps to ensure regulatory compliance.
According to Gartner, a secure web gateway must, at a minimum, include URL filtering, malicious code detection and filtering, and application controls for popular cloud applications such as Microsoft 365. More recently, Gartner identified CASB as a critical component of a security architecture based on the secure access service edge (SASE) framework.
A SWG is designed to block access to or from malicious websites and links. It enforces granular use policies and stops threats from accessing web applications by acting as a secure gateway, and it does so by filtering web and internet traffic at the application level.
Firewalls and SWGs perform similar tasks, but they're not one and the same. Firewalls review the contents of incoming pockets and compare their findings against a signature of known threats at the network level only. SWGs operate at the application level, and they can block or allow connections or keywords according to an organisation's web use policy.
Web gateways and proxies have key differences. A proxy server and gateway both route traffic from a network to the internet, but a proxy server filters which connections are allowed, while a gateway doesn't do any filtering. In this sense, a gateway more closely resembles a door to get to the internet, and a proxy server a wall that bars the inside of the network from being exposed to the internet.
Work-from-anywhere and rapid SaaS adoption are increasing the need for cloud native security solutions. In addition to intrusion prevention, organisations need advanced threat protection, anti-malware, sandboxing and data protection in the form of a cloud access security broker (CASB), data loss prevention (DLP), cloud DLP and browser isolation services. Plus, they need to be able to inspect all traffic, including SSL-encrypted traffic.
To effectively secure cloud resources, security solutions must be architected following Gartner's secure access service edge (SASE) concept. Many of today's proposed cloud security services are limited by their appliance-based architectures, particularly those that require significant compute resources, such as SSL decryption and inspection.
Simply moving on-premise, hardware-based functions such as VPN to the cloud would be like putting thousands of DVD players in a cluster and calling it Netflix.
In short, only a cloud-based solution enables users to have identical protection and policy enforcement, no matter where they connect from or where the cloud services they're using are hosted.
The days of accessing data and applications solely through the corporate data centre are over. Today, employees can work from just about any location, and they need to access applications from their laptops, smartphones, or other endpoint devices. The apps they access are in the cloud instead of your data centre, which traditional network security controls are unable to secure.
Organisations that rely on such traditional infrastructure to secure internet-bound traffic must backhaul it over expensive MPLS links back to a legacy SWG in the data centre. This slows the flow of traffic, resulting in frustrated and altogether less productive employees.
Moreover, these legacy solutions cannot provide adequate cybersecurity in today's cloud-based landscape. Cybercriminals are launching new security threats by developing malicious code and attack methods at a blistering pace. With such high costs and time commitments required to update legacy hardware to stand up to new threats, many organisations don't, or can't, do the updates at all, leaving them vulnerable.
SASE's cloud-delivered architecture combines a host of different networking and security services into one platform, including DNS security, SWG, zero trust network access (ZTNA), and data loss/data leak prevention (DLP).
Additionally, SASE pairs well with an SD-WAN and works for a variety of use cases:
Our partner Zscaler has been named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Secure Web Gateways for 10 consecutive years. In 2021, Gartner defined the security service edge (SSE) - which is an element SASE and a new category that includes SWG - and subsequently recognised Zscaler as a leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge, with the highest 'Ability to Execute'.
Still using appliances for your secure web gateway? Your company might be safer with cloud-based SWG. Take the security preview test to find out how well your company is protected against ransomware, phishing, and other threats. The test is safe, free and informative.