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How a Secure Web Gateway SWG Can Safeguard Your Business From Cyber Threats

A secure web gateway SWG is software that monitors internet traffic and inspects data based on a ruleset that adheres to your company’s security policies.

A secure web gateway SWG is software that monitors internet traffic and inspects data based on a ruleset that adheres to your company’s security policies. It safeguards organizations against malware and suspicious traffic that traditional security endpoint devices may miss. SWG solutions can protect against URL injection attacks, the most common malicious attack. They also protect against unauthorized applications that widen the attack surface in your network.

Malware Prevention

With business operations increasingly taking place over the internet, a secure web gateway (SWG) is essential for businesses to protect themselves against cyber threats. Whether a software solution, cloud-based service, or hardware appliance, SWGs position themselves at the edge of a network and inspect all data passing through it to determine if it should be allowed to enter based on company policy.

SWGs use URL filtering, content filtering, and SSL inspection to manage the incoming traffic to your network. For example, all data accessed from the internet must pass through your SWG. Like security guards check a person’s belongings before allowing them through a physical security checkpoint, SWGs look at all data to ensure it doesn’t violate your cybersecurity policies.

A SWG also scans and analyzes all files for malware, using either blacklists of known malicious code or machine learning algorithms to detect unknown threats. Then, it prevents users from downloading and executing this harmful code on their devices. Furthermore, a SWG can work with your firewall to provide comprehensive internet protection. The two are complementary, as firewalls deny entry into your network by rules, while a SWG looks at all data to spot potential cyber threats that rule-based detection may miss.

Detecting Malware

Real-time traffic monitoring identifies and blocks threats in the early stages of attack. This keeps malware from entering the network and wreaking havoc. It also prevents employees from visiting malicious websites that can slow or disrupt business operations. SWG solutions use various detection methods to scan web content, looking for malware and other security threats. They often use a combination of signature-based and behavior-based detection technologies. Detection methods include:

  • URL and content filtering.
  • Scanning files and scripts for malware signatures.
  • Using machine learning to identify suspicious patterns.

A SWG can be deployed as a hardware appliance or a software-based SaaS solution. The former is typically used in larger, physical locations, while the latter provides businesses more flexibility to protect remote workers.

Regardless of deployment method, SWGs inspect all incoming and outgoing data to ensure it aligns with an organization’s security policies. This includes analyzing the contents of emails, records, and other documents for threats and compliance violations.

A SWG can even analyze encrypted data – such as HTTPS sessions – to detect malicious code and vulnerabilities that attackers often attempt to hide using encryption. This is known as SSL/TLS inspection. It’s a critical feature that helps avert cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, which account for 40% of all web attacks.

URL Filtering

URL filtering allows an SWG to scan web traffic for malicious code and block access to websites deemed off-limits, such as gambling, pornography, or terrorist sites. This can prevent employees from accidentally clicking on a malware link while researching topics or conducting business online.

SWGs often use a database of whitelists to validate URLs, a blacklist to restrict sites deemed off-limits, content filtering that checks files for recognizable malware signatures, or uses machine learning algorithms to identify suspicious code. In addition, SWGs can perform SSL inspection and decrypt HTTPS traffic to scan for malicious code or content hidden in encrypted traffic.

Employee negligence is the leading cause of data breaches, and employees who accidentally click on a phishing scam or download a malicious file can put your organization at risk. To prevent these risks, an SWG can block access to known bad websites and content and may also include sandboxing technology that can safely detonate and analyze malware payloads in a controlled environment.

Content Filtering

To prevent cyberattacks and protect sensitive data, a SWG solution must be capable of filtering web content. Using a SWG, you can monitor all the data that passes through your network and block anything that doesn’t comply with company policies. This is necessary for businesses that depend more on remote employees and cloud applications.

SWGs use signature-based and behavior-based detection methods to identify threats that could enter or leave your networks, including malicious files, malware-infected websites, phishing attacks, etc. This allows SWGs to protect your business from a wide range of cyberattacks launched by outside hackers or insiders, such as disgruntled employees or vendors.

Depending on your SWG type, it may also decrypt SSL/TLS sessions to scan for malware and other security risks. This feature is useful for protecting your network because most malware today uses SSL/TLS encryption to hide in plain sight.

Additionally, most SWG solutions can track data that is leaving your network. This helps your business keep track of what apps and sites employees access and whether they leak sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or confidential data. By detecting data leaks, SWGs can help you enforce compliance with industry regulations and standards such as HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR.


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