What is a Secure Web Gateway (SWG)?

what is a secure web gateway

A Secure Web Gateway is a security solution that protects a network and connected devices from Internet threats. The SWG can be used to enforce the security policies of a company or organization and to analyze and filter network traffic down to the application level. The gateway can be implemented as an appliance in the local network or cloud-based.

What is a Secure Web Gateway (SWG)?

The acronym SWG stands for Secure Web Gateway. It is a security solution designed to protect networks and connected devices from Internet threats. The gateway combines many different security functions and can be used to enforce the security policies of a company or organization.

The gateway is placed between the users with their end devices and the Internet. It can be implemented as a local appliance or as a cloud service. Hybrid solutions consisting of on-premises appliances and cloud services are also possible. Typical features of a Secure Web Gateway include real-time URL and web traffic filtering, application control, antivirus, and malware detection, data leak protection, botnet detection, control of encrypted HTTPS traffic, and more.

Unlike traditional firewalls, SWG is able to analyze and filter traffic down to the application level. In modern networks, Secure Web Gateways are an essential part of the IT security infrastructure, along with other security solutions. The SWG can be administered via a centrally provided management interface.

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Distinction between the firewall and Secure Web Gateway

Both a firewall and a Secure Web Gateway are capable of analyzing network traffic and protecting end devices in a network against threats from the Internet. Although the functionality and intelligence of Secure Web Gateways and firewalls are constantly increasing, and the solutions are increasingly converging or being consolidated into a common security infrastructure, a basic distinction can be made between firewall and SWG.

The SWG focuses on Internet-based attacks by analyzing and filtering network traffic down to the application level. A firewall examines IP traffic on a packet-by-packet basis and can block, log or allow data through depending on header information such as IP addresses, ports, protocols used, and other criteria.

Modern Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW) are capable of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and also analyze the data part of the packets. With increasing functionality and advanced intelligence, these firewalls are moving more and more toward application-level traffic control.

Functional scope of a Secure Web Gateway

The SWG combines numerous security functions in one solution. The range of functions can vary from product to product and manufacturer to manufacturer. Typical functions of a Secure Web Gateway include:

  • URL filtering: blacklisting and whitelisting of Internet URLs
  • Real-time traffic inspection: blocking or passing analyzed Internet traffic
  • Application control: application-level control of allowed and disallowed web application traffic
  • Data leak prevention: protection against leaking data with sensitive or valuable content
  • Antivirus and antimalware protection: protection against the download and execution of malicious or harmful code
  • Encrypted traffic control: decryption and verification of HTTPS traffic (SSL deep inspection)
  • Control of activities in social networks or messengers
  • Botnet detection: identify remote computer activities such as DoS attacks
  • Email security: detection of phishing emails and other threats