In today’s cybersecurity landscape, over 90% of successful malware incidents use the web to breach defenses and launch attacks. A secure web gateway (SWG) is essential to protect against these dangers. A sophisticated SWG can block threats and enforce acceptable-use policies across the network. It does this by deploying multiple layers of protection.

URL Filtering

URL filtering allows companies to set granular policies that control what content their employees can access over company networks. Each time an employee enters a URL into a web browser (whether they type it manually or click on a link), the URL is compared in real-time against active filters to see whether it should be blocked or allowed. If it’s blocked, the website isn’t loaded, and the user gets a notification that says, “Access denied.” URL filtering aims to discourage unproductive behaviors like online games or entertainment sites and prevent malware infections from entering business systems. Cyberattacks can take numerous forms, from sketchy websites to malicious code tacked onto downloaded files (like pirated movies or software updates). With a robust URL filtering solution and a strong dark web monitoring tool, you can monitor and block all potential threats, including those originating from the dark web, and keep your users safe while they work. As more businesses adopt flexible work policies enabling remote work, enforcing security policies for workers everywhere becomes increasingly essential. A safe web gateway provides multiple layers of security that will allow safe, effective internet use, including URL filtering, data leak prevention, and advanced malware detection.

SSL/TLS Decryption

A secure web gateway acts as a checkpoint, standing in line between incoming and outgoing data. This allows security teams to inspect web traffic, including the underlying data, to prevent cybercriminals from accessing or infecting your network and end-users. This includes preventing data exfiltration, where sensitive information leaves the web and can be tampered with in other settings. With malware evolving at breakneck speed, it’s critical to have visibility into new attack vectors, and an SWG can help here as well. By performing SSL decryption, SWGs can inspect the underlying data in encrypted sessions and detect whether sensitive information is being sent off your network. SWGs can also block content and enforce acceptable use policies for remote workers. Often, these rules are set to restrict access to specific types of websites or applications during particular times or by the user’s role. With more employees working outside the office, it’s essential to ensure that sensitive data isn’t leaving your system, even if you have no control over users’ devices or networks. This is where an SWG’s DLP feature comes in, which monitors outgoing traffic and redacts or blocks confidential information, such as credit card numbers, to keep it from leaving your network. This prevents employees from inadvertently sending sensitive information outside of the organization and helps meet compliance requirements.

Malware Detection

Secure gateways are hardware appliances or software solutions that sit on the network perimeter or in the cloud and act as a proxy between internal endpoints and the Internet. All web traffic goes through the gateway, which checks the data for policy violations and suspects URLs that may contain malware. Most SWGs have a blocklist of bad websites, so when a user attempts to load one of those sites, the SWG blocks it. SWGs also scan network traffic for malware by comparing code in the network to known malware and stopping it if it finds it. This prevents malware infections and protects against cyberattacks that use the web to breach defenses and gain network access. SWGs can also inspect outgoing web traffic for specific patterns and phrases indicating sensitive information is leaving the network. This data loss prevention (DLP) functionality can help prevent social security numbers, medical records, and intellectual property from being exposed through inadvertent clicks on websites or online documents. With the workplace becoming increasingly distributed, SWGs are crucial to protecting all workers, even remote ones. With SWGs, remote employees can be required to go through the gateway to use the Internet, so the company’s network security is enforced regardless of where they are working.

HTTPS Inspection

Using SSL or TLS, web browsers, and other applications typically connect to websites directly through an encrypted connection. This prevents third parties from monitoring or eavesdropping traffic between the client and the website. But malware can exploit this feature to deliver malicious threats without being detected by security products that don’t inspect HTTPS traffic. To combat this, a firewall can perform HTTPS inspection by decrypting and analyzing SSL traffic before it passes to the web server. But this complex process can significantly reduce an appliance’s performance and increase latency across the network. For example, it can consume as much as 50% of the CPU on a firewall and can cause users to experience slowness or unresponsiveness. The best NGFWs allow administrators to configure HTTPS inspection rules that determine what types of traffic to ignore. For instance, you can create a government that ignores traffic from financial institutions or healthcare organizations to respect legitimate privacy concerns. Alternatively, you can also use a bypass list to prevent the Security Gateway from inspecting traffic already known to be trusted. A good NGFW will support the latest TLS and SSL protocols and solid ciphers. Additionally, it should perform and convey proper SSL validation. Failure to do so increases the likelihood that attackers will launch Man-in-the-Middle attacks, intercepting and corrupting data.