A Secure Web Gateway (SWG) is an essential part of modern cybersecurity when it comes to protecting your organization from unexpected web attacks.
SWGs achieve an impressive amount of web security through three key aspects – malware protection, web activity tracking, and web filtering – making it the de facto choice to deal with the ever-present cyber threats.
However, modern cybersecurity is essentially a game of cat-and-mouse between organizations and the hackers that target them. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated every day, necessitating new trends in the development of modern SWGs to defend against an ever-increasing attack surface.
To help understand where cybersecurity is headed in regards to deploying secure web gateways, let’s turn our attention to the most visible trends and subsequent benefits of implementing a secure web gateway in today’s cybersecurity paradigm.
SWGs are effective at eliminating malware and filtering out unauthorized websites from day-to-day operations, but there are still threats that can no longer be overlooked.
With the never-ending onslaught of insider threats, an ever-widening attack surface, and the ubiquity of cloud computing, SWGs are being paired with “zero-trust” principles to prevent known attack vectors and anticipate unforeseen vulnerabilities. To achieve this, network administrators and company policies align to create a “zero-trust network architecture,” or ZTNA.
ZTNA is a combination of security tools that accurately identify, authenticate and verify every user that interacts. In layman’s terms, a ZTNA always defaults to the “never trust, always verify” paradigm.
With an SWG as a vital part of “zero-trust,” the purpose of a ZTNA is to ensure that users are properly identified and credentialed before gaining minimally-required access to organizational DAAS (data, assets, applications, and services).
Elements of a comprehensive ZTNA to fully control user activity in and out of the network include some of the following:
As a practical example of why SWGs fall short of completing a holistic security profile for organizations, consider the vulnerability to internal threats. Even with a well-executed SWG, a disgruntled employee can launch malware laterally through an organization, disrupting all affected systems.
According to a recent Stanford study on cybersecurity, 88% of all data breach cases were caused by employee error. The most common reasons cited were phishing emails, as employees unknowingly enabled malware to enter a network by mistaking emails as coming from within a company or from other seemingly-legitimate organizations.
SWGs are being implemented more extensively in response to this startling vulnerability, which could serve to significantly reduce infiltration of malware or exfiltration of protected data from poor decision-making
Due to the precautions of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an explosion in the amount of WFH and remote employment – particularly due to the proliferation of cloud-based networks. Unfortunately, 20% of companies experienced a cyber breach because of remote workers.
In response to this alarming statistic, companies are looking for innovative ways to provide secure remote access to employees in and out of the office. With a properly-deployed SWG (as well as zero-trust policies), the vulnerabilities of remote work can be eliminated. This is especially important as more employees work from home, connect across different gateways, and access cloud resources.
AAnd as a side benefit of this trend, ZTNAs actually increase available bandwidth and secure connectivity for your entire team by limiting access to only mission-critical usage
More than 60% of CISOs reported outsourcing almost a ⅓ of their cybersecurity needs.
This means that for businesses in their startup phase or for established enterprises, having an in-house team to administer SWGs may be a thing of the past in lieu of dedicated software and personnel from 3rd party providers.
At one time, utilizing a traditional VPN solution was seen as the best method for preventing hacks on networks. As a layer of security, it was commonly thought that VPNs created network segmentation away from
Unfortunately, a key problem with VPNs is not their inability to segment networks but their ability to provide access to parts of a network that would be otherwise unreachable through on-site servers and cloud networks. Despite providing a layer of protection that protects an organization’s DAAS, VPNs may actually create more vulnerabilities than keeping out bad actors. If a cybercriminal hacks a VPN, they can subsequently gain free access to the entire network to deliver malware laterally throughout an organization.
That’s why an SWG enables the best protection. Because cybercriminals understand that many exploits are relatively simple to defeat, such as defeating encryption or simply stealing user logs with sensitive information, having comprehensive SWGs ensures limited access to only relevant usage and data.
Now that you understand some of the emerging trends for SWGs and related cybersecurity components, it’s important to understand that SWGs continue to provide a level of protection for networks against web-based threats.
The following are some of the most commonly associated benefits of SWGs:
The limits of actively monitoring networks by human users are subject to potential oversight, mistakes, fatigue, and biases. Because of these limitations, hackers deploy malware that attempts to overwhelm the human element of network security. Even with the best IT security personnel, malware can spread almost instantaneously and render any attempts to mitigate their spread useless.
Optimized SWGs automatically filter out malware based on sophisticated detection algorithms. These algorithms scale to match and exceed the capabilities of the most advanced malicious software, stopping lateral spread before it is too late. And because many Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) providers deploy machine-learning and AI, SWGs are automatically updated on a continuous basis as new threats emerge.
For example, if an IT department is in the process of developing in-house applications, an SWG enables staff to focus on their work while automated processes stop malware from accessing unsecure projects.
SWGs enable organizations to define internal trust boundaries through network segmentation. Network segmentation with an SWG allows for granular control of web traffic, provides secure network access, and implements continuous network monitoring.
Adding or deleting users is also simplified, where 3rd-party vendors/contractors, for example, can be granted agentless access to only the applications they need to perform their job.
If an attack does occur or suspicious activity is detected, any potential attack surface is significantly reduced by the SWG, providing a distributed security solution.
Modern SWGs enable comprehensive infrastructure management through three (3) aforementioned aspects:
Through these aspects, a well-deployed SWG enables efficient monitoring of all connected networks through centralized management – tasks that are either handled in-house and/or through a trusted 3rd-party security provider.
Web policies are not enough to prevent a data breach. An SWG is an active detection system, not static software. Analytics, breach reports, and other metrics from SWGs are extremely valuable in detecting any suspicious activity and staying on top of network trends.
If a malicious attachment is detected in an email, the SWG can alert staff to test the file in a sandboxing environment, running the code of a suspicious file/program to determine how it would behave if it were opened.
For many industries, governmental organizations around the world enforce strict compliance guidelines. These guidelines must be met in order for a business to operate in accordance with law; non-compliance can result in steep fines, business interruption until all problems are resolved through extensive audits, and even criminal charges.
With an SWG, malicious software and web content are prevented from being accessed by users in accordance with some of the following governing bodies:
To maintain a secure network, your networks and IT staff require clear visibility into each user’s web activity. By deploying an SWG, monitoring user web traffic enables an organization to quickly narrow down suspicious activity and track down potential threats. SWGs filter out malicious websites and files that distract employees during the course of their workday. Similarly, employees who attempt to shadow IT ensure that workers employees are only using authorized sites and applications for work-related functions.
This level of granularity from SWGs allows IT admins to view which users tried to access blocked or warned sites, as well as filter reports to drill down to specific employees, sites, or web categories. The result is that organizations receive the best focus and value from their workforce.
To sum up, secure web gateways are an intrinsic part of a holistic cybersecurity strategy for organizations of all sizes and industries. By thoroughly assessing the new cybersecurity landscape, it’s clear to see that organizations must be armed with the best cybersecurity to stay ahead of hackers.
Proper deployment of secure web gateways for experienced network security partners enables organizations to stay protected from online dangers and stay focused on conducting business in an increasingly competitive business landscape.
Perimeter 81 radically simplifies cybersecurity with its holistic, cloud-based solution. As an experienced 3rd-party provider of SWGs, zero-trust, and other emerging technologies, Perimeter 81 is trusted by over 2,500 customers, ranging from SMBs, startups, and Fortune 500s. Request a demo with Perimeter 81 and experience a new paradigm of network protection for on-prem and cloud resources today.