Secure Web Gateway: Making Your Choice

What is a Secure Web Gateway?

A secure web gateway (SWG) helps achieve two main objectives: protecting against web-based threats, and enforcing company policies for web traffic.

To achieve these objectives, a secure web gateway solution typically employs several technologies, such as URL filters, malware scanners, and application control.

Organizations leverage SWG solutions to promote browser security, ensuring employees and third parties can safely browse the pages without putting the corporate network at risk.

How Does a Secure Web Gateway Work?

A secure web gateway monitors web traffic flowing between the web and the network or user endpoints.

There are two options to install SWGs—as software components or as hardware devices. Once the SWG is installed, all traffic occurring between users and network components is routed through the gateway, which monitors web traffic activities.

When monitoring traffic, a secure web gateway looks for malware, analyzes web application use, and checks all attempted URL connections. The SWG may use a stored whitelist to validate URL addresses, as well as blocklists to restrict sites deemed off-limits.

You can store and update whitelists and blacklists in a secure gateway database. The SWG uses the database to filter incoming and outgoing traffic. You can also check data flowing throughout the network, restricting or allowing pre-approved data traffic only.

SWGs can enforce application-level controls on-premise or in the cloud. You can use this capability to secure Software as a Service (SaaS) applications like Salesforce and Office 365. This allows you to restrict or limit uploads or downloads, for example.

Learn more about using SWG to improve your security posture in our detailed guide to web gateway security (coming soon)

Secure Web Gateway Features

To protect against web-based attacks and enforce policies, SWGs use several technologies, including URL filters, anti-malware scanners, and application control.

URL Filtering

URLs are strings of text that appear when a browser loads a web page. For example, https://www.hysolate.com/resources/.

URL filtering enables you to allow, restrict, or limit the websites each user can load. It typically requires the use of blocklists, which include restricted sites, and whitelists, which include sites that are allowed. The SWG uses the lists when filtering sites.

Anti-Malware Scanner

SWGs are responsible for scanning network traffic, looking for potential malware threats. The majority of these scanners look for known threats. Alternatively, the scanner may also use a sandbox, which is an isolated environment, to safely execute the code.

A sandbox enables the scanner to assess the behavior of the code in a controlled environment, far removed from the main production environment. Once malware is detected, the gateway blocks it from entering the system. You can keep the code in the sandbox for future analysis.

SWGs can also decrypt HTTPs traffic, and then scan it for malware. Once the scan is complete and the traffic is deemed sage, the SWG re-encrypts it and forwards it to the web server or the end user.

Application Control

An application control system enables you to detect the applications used on the network and control applications traffic. For example, you can completely restrict certain applications from being added to the IT environment, allow only access to approved applications, limit the amount of resources an application can consume, and more. SWGs use application control to identify, authenticate, and authorize applications and users.

Related content: read our guide to application whitelisting.

Content Filtering

This feature can detect unwanted content and block it on user devices. Content filtering, for example, can prevent videos and photos that are not in line with the organization’s Internet use policy, or may create legal or compliance exposure, from entering the corporate network. Corporate IT administrators can use secure web gateways to set custom content filtering policies for the entire enterprise.

Related content: read our guide to web filtering.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Not all web security gateways offer this feature, but it is very effective in preventing data leakage. DLP can prevent sensitive content from leaving the network. It can detect sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or documents marked as confidential, detect sensitive data transferred from a corporate network, and block or flag the data to prevent data leakage.

Secure Web Gateways vs Firewalls

Like SWGs, firewalls are responsible for monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic and can differentiate between normal activities and potentially malicious traffic. The two are network security measures, but each work differently.

A firewall uses a predefined set of security rules to allow or restrict data packets, whereas a secure web gateway uses lists and policies to allow or restrict web-traffic. The two technologies may seem identical, but each performs a different function using different techniques.

How to Evaluate Secure Web Gateway Solutions

These are some key things to consider when evaluating a secure web gateway solution:

  • Do you have a complete understanding of the web-based threats and vulnerabilities affecting your organizations and how they may impact your users? What are the business risks these vulnerabilities pose?
  • What control measures do you already have in place to compensate for these vulnerabilities and help mitigate web-related risk?
  • Does your organization have other business needs or specific security requirements? What gaps need to be addressed to achieve your business and security objectives?
  • Have you set up any internal resources for deploying and managing new security tools?
  • What support will your organization need when deploying on the cloud? Can you integrate your existing on-premises resources with the cloud offering?
  • How will you evaluate the success of implementing a secure web gateway? Will your enterprise’s security management approach accommodate changes easily or do you need to adjust your strategy?

Once you have defined your specific needs, you can compare the SWG products on offer and choose the one that best meets those needs. Choosing the right Secure Web Gateway product is essential for ensuring that you can mitigate the risks to your information assets and data systems. You also need to take into account resource requirements and budget.

Securing Web Traffic with Hysolate

Hysolate is more than just a secure web gateway. Hysolate isolates your entire OS environment, isolating risky or sensitive activities away from your host device. Within Hysolate users can access untrusted websites, applications, documents and even external applications like USBs and printers in an isolated “risky zone”, without introducing malicious threats to their corporate or sensitive data. IT admins can save time and resources by reducing web filtering and whitelisting sites and applications, and users can be more productive.

Hysolate sits on user endpoints, eliminating UX issues like lag and latency, even with more resource-intensive applications, but it also comes with full admin management from the cloud. That means that admins can deploy Hysolate at scale across their company, including different settings for different teams.

Want to try out Hysolate for yourself? Try Hysolate Free here.