Zero trust web security protects outbound traffic from threats, infections, and other malicious activity
Whether categorizing data, responding to emails, scrolling through LinkedIn, or making dinner, it’s hard to refute that our brains are on autopilot for most of the day. This means we often act first and think later — a fatal flaw regarding Internet usage and enterprise network safety. Luckily, the negative effects of mindless link-clicking can be mitigated by incorporating a secure web gateway (SWG) into an enterprise’s threat detection, response, and prevention plans.
Because secure web gateways are built to stop Internet-based attacks from pivoting into the company network, the need for them rises as Internet usage increases. That’s why the SWG market is projected to be worth more than $31 billion by 2028. Here’s more of what you need to know about this explicit forward proxy security measure.
What is a secure web gateway?
A secure web gateway filters and enforces policies on outbound Internet traffic to protect an organization’s network from online security threats and infections such as malware, viruses, and much more. When users type a link into their browser, click on a link from an email or website, or upload photos and files to the Internet, the SWG springs into action, serving as a traffic checkpoint to provide secure Internet access.
Positioned between users and the web, this security tool can scrutinize Internet traffic, terminate inline connections, and apply user-based security and access policies. Plus, they can enforce corporate and regulatory policy compliance. These efforts reduce the attack surface, stop lateral movement throughout the network, and prevent data loss.
Although they share some similar features, a SWG generally differs from a web application firewall or firewalls.
- Web application firewalls protect applications from inbound threats (reverse proxies) that can control, manipulate, block, or drop traffic. SWGs are explicitly focused on monitoring and scrubbing outbound Internet traffic.
- Firewalls are built to protect network traffic and ensure subnets don’t cross over one another. SWGs focus specifically on protecting Internet traffic, including HTTP and HTTPS traffic that existing firewalls cannot analyze.
Key functions of a secure web gateway
Whether a user is accessing the Internet remotely or from a local-area network, a comprehensive secure web gateway solution provides secure Internet access and dramatically enhances an enterprise’s security posture using the following key tactics.
Link inspection is the bread and butter of a secure web gateway. When a user attempts to access a website or click on a link from a browser, email, or other source, the secure web gateway will compare the URL and its contents to those approved by corporate policies. Then, based on the policy, it will block or allow the user to access the site.
Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR), also known as “data sanitization” or “file sanitization,” is the method by which a secure web gateway scans and scrubs downloadable files or scripts for malicious content before delivering them to the user. If malware signatures are detected, the download is blocked.
Remote browser isolation (RBI)
Policies built for a secure web gateway include allowed and blocked sites, but some sites fall outside those buckets and are labeled as “unknown” or “unrecognized.” When a user attempts to access an unknown link, a SWG can render the site in an air-gapped, isolated cloud container using remote browser isolation. In this instance, instead of sending the site directly to the end user’s browser, the content is streamed to the user from a sandbox (sometimes as read-only) to prevent malware from infecting the machine.
How secure web gateways complement 5G SASE solutions for enterprise business
Although secure web gateways can be on-premises, physical hardware is difficult to scale. Dynamic cloud environments are better suited for agile, growing enterprises — that’s where 5G secure access service edge (SASE) solutions come in.
SASE security models include a mix of zero trust SD-WAN, zero trust network access (ZTNA), and zero trust Internet access. A secure web gateway is a subcomponent of zero trust Internet access. A cloud-based SWG solution as part of SASE architecture offers protection for users by automatically and intelligently scrutinizing the connection in real-time, regardless of their origin, application destination, or encryption status. Zero trust policies guide the decisions of a SWG by determining what policies should be enforced based on the users' location, credentials, device, and more.
Without a zero trust Internet access solution, the threat surface and risk to an enterprise network increase drastically. Data remains secure by preventing users from surfing sites deemed unsavory by the organization.