A secure web gateway is a network security checkpoint that inspects all data and content to ensure it follows company policies.

SWGs can be a software solution or a physical appliance deployed at the edge of your network.

Detects and blocks malware in incoming and outgoing internet traffic by comparing code in web pages to known malicious sites. Some SWGs also employ sandboxing, which executes suspicious code in an emulated environment to test for malware.


secure web gateway (SWG) provides a barrier between the public Internet and your private network, inspecting all content before it can access your internal resources. As part of a layered security solution, the gateway is the second defense against cyberattacks that bypass firewalls and other protections.

As the world’s workforce becomes increasingly remote, a strong SWG is vital to reducing the risks of employees working from home or other offsite locations. Employee negligence is the #1 reason for data breaches, with 90% of breaches caused by employees accidentally clicking on a malicious link or downloading malware.

To keep your data safe, many SWG solutions provide advanced threat detection engines that monitor your business network for phishing attacks, viruses, malicious JavaScript code, and other threats. These engines use multiple methods, including signature, machine learning, sandboxing, and more.

Most networks now utilize HTTPS, an encrypted protocol that makes it more difficult for attackers to see what you’re sending them. Some SWGs can decrypt HTTPS traffic to scan for malicious URLs or payloads. Then, the SWG re-encrypts the traffic before allowing it to reach your network.

Many SWGs also provide outbound data loss prevention (DLP), which redacts sensitive information to prevent it from leaving your network. For example, it can block all 16-digit credit card numbers in an outbound email or edit any other information you want to protect.

URL Filtering

URL filtering is a feature that allows IT admins to set restrictions that ensure security on endpoints regardless of location. This helps IT teams protect data by ensuring employees can only access websites and web applications for work-related activities. This reduces productivity-draining distractions and the risk of exposing sensitive information from the network to outside parties.

The process involves analyzing outbound internet traffic and matching it against a database of predefined URL categories to determine what action to take. It can be as simple as blocking sites that host malware, phishing, or other malicious code or enabling granular policies with criteria such as user or group, departments, locations, and time intervals.

Some SWG solutions offer native, turnkey inspection policies that are ready to use right out of the box. For example, they can inspect outbound files to see if they contain sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card data, medical records, or intellectual property, then block the file from leaving the corporate network.

This helps prevent data breaches, loss, and theft and protects the corporate infrastructure from potential damage or slowdown caused by unauthorized external file downloads. It also protects against phishing attacks and other threats that utilize the web to breach systems.

Malware Detection

Detecting and stopping malware and other cyber attacks launched inside your organization’s network is an essential function of a secure web gateway. SWGs are software or hardware solutions, cloud-based services or appliances that inspect all inbound and outbound internet traffic, ensuring that only web-safe websites can be accessed and keeping malicious website content, viruses and malware payloads from accessing internal systems.

Using turnkey inspection policies or customized ones, SWGs can identify what kinds of files, pictures and videos a user will try to download and websites they will try to visit. If the SWG determines this content violates corporate policies, it will block the download and prevent the website from loading.

In addition to URL filtering, SWGs can scan internet traffic for malware by comparing code to known malware signatures. This allows the SWG to spot potential threats, even if they are hidden within encrypted internet traffic such as HTTPS. SWGs can also use sandboxing to execute malware in a controlled environment to see how it behaves. This helps protect your business from ransomware and other malicious software designed to encrypt data and prevent its recovery. Another important function of an SWG is data loss prevention (DLP), which detects and redacts sensitive content leaving your organization’s control to prevent it from being inadvertently leaked outside the network.

Application Controls

A secure web gateway acts like a firewall by inspecting, filtering and blocking internet traffic to prevent malicious code from entering the organization’s network. However, whereas firewalls operate at the packet level to control which data enters and exits an organization’s network, SWGs function at the application level.

A SWG can block employees from accessing adult content or gambling sites and monitor social media platforms to identify suspicious behavior. It can also control access to cloud-based applications. Additionally, a SWG can scan for malware within encrypted internet traffic (HTTPS inspection) by decrypting and analyzing the data to ensure it is legitimate before it is re-encrypted.

With cyberattacks at an all-time high and a growing remote workforce, a SWG is essential for an organization’s layered security strategy. It protects the network by detecting and preventing data breaches while helping organizations comply with regulatory mandates such as PCI-DSS and GDPR. In addition, a SWG can be integrated with other solutions to strengthen the business’s security posture further. For example, a SWG can be combined with a cloud access security broker (CASB) to prevent data leaks by checking that files uploaded to the cloud aren’t being viewed by unauthorized people. It can also protect against malware and sensitive data by putting files downloaded to the cloud into a read-only environment.