It’s pronounced “swig” and it’s definitely a cybersecurity cocktail: secure web gateways are a mix of tools specifically designed to protect users and their devices while browsing the internet. If you ask Gartner, a secure web gateway must contain: URL filtering, malicious code detection and filtering, and application control for cloud apps like Microsoft 365. Providing comprehensive web protection by inspecting web traffic, blocking malicious URLs, and enforcing data-leakage policies, the SWG cocktail includes things like antivirus, web filtering, and sandboxing to provide real-time protection against web-based threats. At a root level, knowing the differences between SWG versus CASB comes down to what they’re protecting and where they’re sitting. SWGs provide granular control over web traffic, allowing organizations to enforce policies based on user, group, or location.

Secure web gateways provide:

  • Comprehensive web protection
  • Real-time threat detection and blocking
  • Granular control over web traffic

SWGs go a step beyond a firewall, which does the job of reading the contents of incoming packets to compare its findings against a signature of known threats (but at the network level only). SWGs operate at the application level, blocking and allowing connections or keywords according to an organization’s acceptable use policy.

But anyone exploring securing today’s cloud has probably heard of CASB. A cloud access security broker (CASB) provides security specifically for cloud-based applications. CASBs act like gatekeepers between an organization’s on-premises infrastructure and the cloud environment, creating a secure connection between cloud applications and users, monitoring user activity, and enforcing security policies. CASBs use various security technologies such as encryption, access control, and data loss prevention (DLP) to provide protection against cloud-based threats such as data leakage, data loss, and unauthorized access. They also give an excellent centralized view of an organization’s cloud environment, making it easier to manage and secure – as well as helping maintain compliance with regulations including GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.

Image of a Banyan cloud on top of a global web representing SWG versus CASBCASBs typically operate using a combination of API integration, network traffic analysis, and user behavior analysis. In terms of deployment, there are two main paths: as a proxy service that sits between a user’s device and the cloud application, or as an out-of-band deployment where APIs are used to enable controls on (and gain visibility into) the cloud application. In API-based mode, the CASB integrates with the cloud application via APIs to gain visibility into usage and to enforce security policies. In proxy-based mode, the CASB acts as a gateway between the user and the cloud application, intercepting and inspecting traffic to ensure compliance and security.

Benefits of CASB:

  • Comprehensive protection for cloud applications
  • Real-time monitoring of user activity
  • Policy enforcement for compliance and data protection
  • Granular control over user access to cloud applications

More on SWG versus CASB

So how do you know if you need SWG or CASB (or both)? Secure web gateways provide protection for web traffic only, while cloud access security brokers provide protection for cloud applications and data. This means that stand-alone SWGs may not be effective at protecting against threats that originate from cloud applications, while CASBs may not provide comprehensive protection against web-based threats. SWGs focus on providing comprehensive protection against web-based threats like malware, phishing, and other attacks that may occur while users are browsing the internet; on the other hand, CASBs focus on preventing cloud-based threats like data breaches, data loss, and unauthorized access to cloud applications. SWGs provide real-time protection against web-based threats, while CASBs provide real-time monitoring of user activity and policy enforcement for cloud applications.

Last but not least: secure web gateways provide real-time protection, allowing organizations to respond quickly to emerging threats. Many stand-alone cloud access security brokers rely on controlling the access prior to any malicious behavior happening and may not provide this level of real-time protection, which can result in delayed response times and increased risk. Ideally, you choose a comprehensive SSE solution like the Banyan Security Platform that protects both fronts in real-time, minimizing your attack surface.

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Banyan Security Research Labs