What is a Secure Web Gateway?

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As employees work from various locations and access cloud apps from anywhere, having a secure web gateway (SWG) between their network and the internet becomes even more essential to protecting data against hacker intrusions. An SWG acts as a protective shield that keeps hackers at bay by acting as a filter between private networks and internet traffic, keeping data out of harm’s way and hackers’ grasp.

Security Working Groups accomplish this goal by blocking incoming malware, decrypting encrypted traffic and forwarding suspicious code to other security solutions for further inspection. In addition, DLP services scan for social security numbers, credit card data, medical information and intellectual property to detect unauthorized outbound data movement and prevent unwarranted outward migration of sensitive information.


Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) filter internet traffic entering your organization’s network to prevent malware, viruses and other forms of malicious content from infecting users or reaching your sensitive data. SWGs also prevent data exfiltration; in which sensitive information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers leak out. Unlike traditional firewalls that only look out for known threats and vulnerabilities, SWGs offer inline solutions which inspect all incoming and outgoing traffic – unlike firewalls which only protect against known risks and vulnerabilities.

SWGs can be deployed as either hardware appliances or software-based systems, while some vendors provide hybrid models combining on-premise solutions with cloud security services. Many SWGs feature advanced capabilities like sandboxing and data loss prevention that help organizations comply with regulatory policies and frameworks as well as detect potential attacks before they reach their networks thereby speeding detection and containment times.

An SWG works by monitoring traffic and blocking access to websites, online applications and files without authorization from being viewed by their intended recipients. Furthermore, an SWG provides usage reports which enable executives to address unused or overused resources on their network channels and resources.

Secure web gateways feature security measures like malware detection, URL filtering, sandboxing and data loss prevention to keep their clients protected from emerging threats. URL filtering is often employed as the most frequently employed feature – blocking malicious website addresses before recognizing and blocking them; malware detection uses an extensive database of known threats to identify new ones while also acting as a buffer against zero-day threats by recognizing new patterns in malware samples; other features may include SSL inspection as well as application controls for popular cloud-based tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

A good SWG should integrate with other security programs to enhance its protection capabilities, such as connecting to sandboxing solutions that run suspicious applications or malware in a virtual environment in order to thwart targeted attacks. Furthermore, an extensive threat intelligence database providing visibility into emerging threats and attack vectors allows an SWG to more accurately categorize web and internet traffic as well as block any unauthorized access into sensitive internal systems.


With more companies moving toward remote workplace environments, a secure gateway is becoming an essential piece of infrastructure. Remote employees may access sensitive company data from devices they don’t control – placing their employer and data at risk. Furthermore, malware could infiltrate these devices resulting in data breaches. A gateway helps prevent these cyber threats by making sure all employee web traffic passes through it before entering the network – protecting users’ computers against potentially malicious sites that might download malware onto them or be accessible by others in the workplace.

Secure gateways are hardware or software-based applications designed to work together with SD-WAN and networking security products in order to protect networks against data breaches and cybersecurity risks. Their technology relies on proxy servers, which intercept and inspect traffic before reaching end-users; some gateways may even decrypt HTTPS (SSL) traffic for scanning malware or threats.

SWGs perform real-time monitoring of web traffic by comparing it against company policies. This typically includes checking URLs against a database of known web categories, using MITM to inspect SSL/TLS traffic, and monitoring for unapproved user behavior. Some gateways also feature other forms of protection, such as sandboxing to run malicious downloads in virtual instances or data loss prevention (DLP) measures that detect and prevent data leaks.

A successful SWG should be capable of applying policies based on user location, content they are viewing or both. Furthermore, multiple methods should be available to it to analyze and enforce these rules such as dynamic NAT mapping, IP reputation databases or DNS lookups; some even use behavioral analytics to detect possible threats like phishing websites or malware downloads and block them before they reach users.

Many Security Working Groups (SWGs) come equipped with pre-loaded inspection policies that meet most businesses’ needs; however, it should also be possible to customize and implement new ones as desired. They should also monitor both on-premise traffic as well as cloud traffic to monitor potential attacks from hackers as well as provide visibility into new attack vectors being utilized by them.


Secure web gateways are integral components of an organization’s multilayered security architecture, serving to block malware encountered via user initiated Internet traffic while upholding corporate policy compliance standards and protecting web applications against threats, thus improving overall security.

SWGs usually run on proxy servers that act as intermediaries between endpoint devices and the Internet, providing them with a way to intercept outgoing data and inspect it for malicious code before allowing only clean content through. They can also perform various other security functions; for instance deep-inspecting SSL (hardware accelerated) and SSH traffic for hidden threats as well as protecting against spoofing attacks by identifying real IP addresses of websites as well as fake certificates – as well as performing other security functions like deep inspection of SSL (hardware accelerated) traffic.

Many SWGs provide users with finely tuned policy rules to restrict what files, applications and websites they access based on factors like time of day or usage quotas. It may even block websites that violate company policies to avoid data leakage; additionally it can scan for common patterns to identify sensitive data like social security numbers and credit card numbers and redact or block them before leaving the network.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions are also typically included within SWGs, providing an essential safeguard against confidential data leaving the organization’s network, such as social security numbers or credit card details, redacting it before it leaves an employee device and reducing data leakage risk for companies that rely on remote workers.

Integrating Zero-Day Malware solutions is another crucial aspect of an SWG. Zero-day detection provides the best way to stop and remediate threats before they cause harm, and integrate with security monitoring solutions so admins are immediately alerted of any problems that arise.

SWGs may take the form of either physical devices that sit at the network perimeter, or software-based solutions that run on servers or in the cloud. Some vendors also offer hybrid options with both on-premise hardware, cloud services, and on-demand infrastructure options available.


Secure Web Gateway (SWG) solutions serve as a filter between the public internet and your private network, protecting servers from malware by enforcing policies around who, what, where, when and how internal endpoints access it. By doing this, Secure Web Gateway solutions safeguard your systems against potential malicious code entering through multiple channels.

SWGs can inspect HTTPS-encrypted traffic by decrypting it and scanning its contents for potentially malicious elements before re-encrypting and sending back to the web server – known as inbound and outbound HTTPS inspection. Furthermore, SWGs can scan file downloads and emails before reaching their destinations, helping prevent employees from downloading unauthorized software that introduces threats into your network.

These solutions also enable granular control over your data by categorizing web traffic according to attributes and fields, helping your organization enforce policies based on its specific requirements. You may prioritize incidents that involve business-critical applications or financial data in order to respond more rapidly than to those that don’t require immediate attention.

SWG solutions can also detect and block malware that attempts to call home, protecting sensitive information like credit card numbers or medical records from being exposed and lost forever. This feature is especially valuable considering IBM estimates the average time it takes for data breaches to be identified and contained can take up to 280 days!

Many vendors provide integrated security platforms that combine gateway security and other cybersecurity features into one product, which greatly facilitates deployment, integration, and management. This reduces deployment costs while offering an enhanced view into your security posture.

As more companies embrace remote working, having a secure gateway becomes even more essential. Data stored in the cloud poses greater risks of being stolen by cybercriminals; using an SWG can ensure your cloud-stored information remains protected.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.