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What is a secure web gateway and when should you use it?

18 Jan 2021

The internet is becoming a corporate network for many businesses. This is because many remote employees use the web to access cloud platforms in their daily work and to communicate with their colleagues.

As with any new process, this means we have to look at the security we have in place to make sure it is still fit for purpose.

Traditional perimeter defences, like firewalls and intrusion detection systems, aren’t as effective when much of the workforce is remote. That is where a secure web gateway could come in handy.

What is a secure web gateway?

A secure web gateway (SWG) is a security solution that prevents unsecured traffic from entering your network.

It makes sure that your employees only access information that is secured and protected and defends against online threats by detecting and filtering malicious web traffic, websites, viruses and malware in real time.

This includes application controls for web-based applications, such as instant messaging or Skype.

How does it work?

SWGs are usually available as software, hardware or virtual appliances.

The solution sits at the network’s perimeter or in the cloud, acting as a proxy between users and the internet.

What are the major benefits?

Businesses typically deploy secure web gateways to enforce consistent internet security and compliance policies for all users, regardless of location or device.

For remote employees, it can authenticate them seamlessly and give them and their devices the same security levels as if they were in the office.

Businesses can also enforce acceptable use policies, prevent access to inappropriate websites or content and prevent the unauthorised transfer of data.

Inspect web traffic: The SWG analyses content in real-time against corporate policies. Content that contravenes company policy is automatically blocked. Common security policy templates are available off-the-shelf, but they can be configured to suit your company’s compliance requirements.

Protection for remote workers: You can apply security policies to devices anywhere and anytime. No matter where employees are working, your internet traffic is secure.

Data Leak Prevention: The SWG decrypts SSL connections and passes the content to your data leak prevention solution. Employees can’t transmit or copy data to an unauthorised agency.

Time and content-based access: Access to the internet can be restricted to selected times and access limited to specific web content. Employees can be restricted to only access websites relevant to their jobs.

Is a SWG enough for your business?

While the benefits of SWGs are clear, they are only part of the network and security equation and as technologies develop, so too do the threats to your business. Security is also evolving to meet those threats with the emergence of the SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) model, first outlined by Gartner in September 2019.

SASE is a suite of technologies offered by vendors – including SD-WAN, SWGs, CASB, next-generation firewall and ZTNA – that are designed to ensure your employee devices connect securely to the company network.

The SASE package offers better network security enhanced with threat correlation and cloud intelligence. It also simplifies infrastructure as there are no on-premises appliances.

As part of the SASE model, secure web gateways are a vital element in any robust business resilience and cyber security strategy.

Find out how to build a more secure business.

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