What Is a Web Security Gateway?
Web Security Gateways: An Overview
A web security gateway, also known as a secure web gateway (SWG), is a type of security solution that prevents web-based threats from entering an organization’s network and blocks users from accessing web resources that may contain malware, viruses and other threats. A web secure gateway serves as a checkpoint, sitting between an organization’s internal network and the internet to inspect traffic flowing in from and out to the web. Web security gateways employ a variety of technologies such as URL filtering, malware detection, application control and inspection of encrypted traffic while delivering greater visibility into web traffic and usage.
A web security gateway is now an indispensable part of the security stack as IT networks become more distributed and threats more sophisticated. Employees today may work from any location and require fast access to cloud services and remote access to corporate resources. Web security gateway technology enables IT teams to consistently enforce security policies across the organization while avoiding the need to backhaul traffic through a central hub for security inspection. As a result, workers have faster, secure access to the resources they need to stay productive, while IT teams can manage security policy from one central location.
A secure web gateway solution is a core component of the secure access service edge (SASE) security framework. In addition to SWGs, SASE networks use cloud access security brokers (CASBs), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) technology, firewall as a service (FWaaS) solutions and SD-WAN connectivity to deliver stronger security for modern networks while simplifying security management for IT teams.
How a Web Security Gateway Works
A web security gateway solution may be deployed as an on-premises appliance, as software installed on-premises or in the cloud, or as a cloud-based secure web gateway service. Regardless of the type of deployment, all SWGs function in a similar fashion. Any incoming or outbound web traffic is routed through the gateway, which inspects the request and allows it to move forward if it does not violate security policies.
Web security gateways use a variety of technologies to inspect traffic and block, quarantine, flag or allow it to pass.
- URL filtering capabilities allow security teams to establish specific websites or types of domains that should be blocked. These may be sites that are known to be malicious or that seem suspicious. When users attempt to access the sites, the SWG will block the request and send the user a message.
- Application control features enable administrators to enforce granular web security policies that allow, block or limit usage of certain web applications and widgets. This capability enables organizations to prevent users from accessing social media, adult content or other websites deemed inappropriate or unacceptable.
- Data loss prevention (DLP) technology searches outbound traffic to identify sensitive data like credit card information, Social Security numbers, intellectual property or other confidential data. When a malicious or inadvertent data leak is identified, the SWG can block traffic from leaving, enforce encryption or alert IT teams.
- Antivirus technology searches for real-time virus signatures in web traffic to detect, prevent and remove threats like viruses, Trojans and adware.
- Malware detection capabilities inspect web content for known malware or code that seems suspicious. When malware is detected, SWGs block access to a website or reconstruct and render a malware-free webpage for the user. SWGs can also detect malware within file downloads.
- HTTPS inspection scans and secures SSL-encrypted traffic, decrypting the traffic with a sender’s public key and re-encrypting the content after inspecting it for threats.
Challenges of Deploying an SWG
Security teams may need to overcome several hurdles when deploying a web security gateway.
- The limitations of appliances. Appliance-based SWGs may have limited capacity for inspecting encrypted traffic and are likely the last in line for updates. Maintaining SWGs can be costly and time-consuming or require expertise that short-staffed IT teams simply don’t have.
- Lack of integration. Many web security solutions are point solutions with functionality that is not coordinated with workflows across other security infrastructure, increasing the complexity of maintaining consistent security policies.
- Impact on user experiences. Traditional web security gateways may result in slower performance in low-bandwidth locations, degrading the user experience by slowing down web traffic.
What is a SWG vs. a CASB vs. a Firewall?
A web security gateway functions much like a firewall and a cloud access security broker (CASB). Each technology monitors activity, inspects traffic, enforces security policies and blocks actions to defend against threats. However, firewalls work at the packet level, applying security policies to allow or deny individual packets from entering or leaving the network. Sophisticated threats at the application level can easily bypass certain firewall defenses. In contrast, secure web gateways operate at the application level, examining actual traffic to identify and protect against much more sophisticated, internet-borne attacks. CASBs control access to cloud applications and can recognize a larger range of applications than web security gateway technology. Each of these solutions complements the capabilities of the others.
A Web Security Gateway from Forcepoint
Forcepoint provides a next-generation secure web gateway as part of Forcepoint ONE, a cloud-native, all-in-one security platform. Forcepoint ONE SWG ensures high-speed performance while allowing users to securely access any website or download any document. Integration of tools for Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) enables users to render risky sites in secure containers, and optional Zero Trust Content Disarm & Reconstruction (CDR) capabilities enable users to completely sanitize all downloadable documents.
Forcepoint SWG security protects organizations by:
- Monitoring and controlling interaction with any website
- Blocking access to websites based on category and risk score
- Blocking uploads of sensitive data to personal filesharing accounts
- Detecting shadow IT
- Blocking downloads of malware
- Enforcing Zero Trust on the web
- Applying web security policies in the cloud or on the endpoint
- Extending best-in-class DLP to the web
- Simplifying management by enabling administrators to set policies once and apply them everywhere, including cloud apps and private apps as part of a unified platform