Web Security Gateway (SWG): 5 Key Capabilities

What Is a Web Security Gateway?

10 Minute Read

A web security gateway, also known as secure web gateway (SWG), is a network security solution that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing web traffic to protect an organization's network and users from various online threats, such as malware, phishing, and data breaches. 

It acts as an intermediary between users and the internet, applying security policies, blocking malicious content, and enforcing data loss prevention measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an organization's information and resources.

This is part of a series of articles about website security.

In this article:

How a Secure Web Gateway Works

A secure web gateway typically works by utilizing a combination of technologies that assist in inspecting and monitoring web-related traffic. Here are key technologies used in this process:

  • Traffic interception: The SWG intercepts all incoming and outgoing web traffic, acting as an intermediary between the users on the network and the internet. This is typically achieved using proxy-based or non-proxy-based methods.
  • Traffic analysis: The SWG examines the web traffic, which may include URLs, content, applications, and file attachments. It checks for compliance with the organization's security policies and scans for any potential threats or vulnerabilities.
  • Policy enforcement: Based on predefined security policies, the SWG either allows or blocks the web traffic. These policies may include rules for URL filtering, application control, data loss prevention, and other security measures. Some SWGs also support customizable policies to meet specific organizational requirements.
  • Threat detection and prevention: The SWG uses various technologies to identify and block threats, such as antivirus engines, malware detection, sandboxing, and behavior analysis. It prevents malicious content from entering the network or sensitive data from being leaked.
  • Reporting and monitoring: SWGs typically offer reporting and monitoring features to provide visibility into web traffic, policy violations, and threat events. This helps administrators track and analyze the effectiveness of the gateway, as well as identify potential issues and trends.

By implementing these processes, SWGs offer comprehensive protection against web-based threats, ensuring a safe and secure browsing experience for users on the organization's network.

Related content: Read our guide to website testing.

5 Key Capabilities of SWG Solutions

1. URL Filtering

This is a technique used to block access to certain websites based on the URL. The security gateway checks the URL of a site against a database of categorized URLs. Based on the organization's policies, access to certain categories of sites (like adult content, social media, etc.) might be blocked to prevent distractions, inappropriate content, or potential security risks.

2. Application Control

This feature allows the organization to control the use of applications on their network. For instance, an organization might want to limit the use of certain social media applications, peer-to-peer file sharing, or video streaming services. Application control can help increase productivity, reduce bandwidth usage, and mitigate potential security risks.

3. Data Loss Prevention

DLP is a strategy for making sure that end users do not send sensitive or critical information outside the corporate network. The data could be in motion (network traffic), at rest (data storage), or in use (endpoint actions). DLP solutions can identify, monitor, and protect data through deep content inspection, and apply policies for data transfer.

4. Antivirus

The antivirus functionality of a web security gateway can scan the incoming traffic and files for known viruses, Trojans, worms, and other types of malware. If such malicious content is detected, the security gateway can block it from entering the network to prevent any potential damage or data theft.

5. HTTPS Inspection

Also known as SSL/TLS inspection, this feature allows the security gateway to decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt traffic that is sent over a secure HTTPS connection. This is important because a lot of malware is now delivered over HTTPS, which would normally be invisible to most security tools. 

HTTPS inspection allows the gateway to identify and block such threats, even if they are hidden in encrypted traffic. It's important to note that this feature can raise privacy concerns and should be used judiciously and transparently.

Selecting the Right SWG Deployment Strategy

Choose the most suitable deployment method for your organization, which can be on-premises, cloud-based, or a hybrid approach. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your organization's infrastructure, size, and specific requirements. 


An on-premises SWG is deployed within an organization's own infrastructure, typically using physical or virtual appliances. This approach provides greater control over security policies, data storage, and maintenance. 

It can also offer lower latency for traffic inspection, as the traffic doesn't need to leave the organization's network. However, on-premises SWGs can be more expensive due to the costs associated with hardware, maintenance, and dedicated IT staff.


A cloud-based SWG is hosted by a third-party service provider and accessed over the internet. This option offers easy scalability, faster deployment, and lower upfront costs. It can also provide centralized control for organizations with multiple locations or remote workers. However, cloud-based solutions may have data sovereignty and compliance concerns, depending on the service provider's data storage and processing policies.


A hybrid approach combines on-premises and cloud-based SWG solutions to leverage the advantages of both. For instance, an organization might use an on-premises SWG for critical applications and data, while offloading less sensitive web traffic to a cloud-based solution for scalability and cost savings. This approach allows organizations to tailor their web security to their specific needs.

Managing SWG and Establishing Security Rules

To manage usage effectively and establish appropriate security rules, consider the following steps:

  1. Identify critical assets: Determine what data, applications, and systems are most important to your organization and require the highest level of protection.
  2. Assess risks and vulnerabilities: Identify potential risks, such as unauthorized access, data breaches, or malware infections, and evaluate the likelihood and impact of these risks on your organization.
  3. Develop security policies: Based on your risk assessment, create security policies that outline acceptable usage, define access levels, and establish procedures for incident response.
  4. Implement and enforce policies: Configure your SWG to enforce these policies and monitor web traffic for compliance. Regularly review and update your policies to address evolving threats and business requirements.
  5. Implementing granular application control policies: in your SWG to regulate the use of specific applications or features within applications. For example, allow access to a file storage service, but restrict file sharing or downloading capabilities. This level of control can help improve productivity, manage bandwidth usage, and mitigate potential security risks.

Web Security Gateway with HackerOne

The HackerOne Attack Resistance Platform helps your organization anticipate threats with adversarial testing by ethical hackers who work for you. They continuously discover and prioritize vulnerabilities in your internet applications. Those findings can be used to tune your Web Secure Gateway policies for more complete protection. The Attack Resistance Platform innovates your security faster than cybercrime so you can evolve your digital business with confidence.

Learn more about the HackerOne Attack Resistance Platform