SWG vs Firewall: What’s The Difference?

SWG vs Firewall

The threat of an increasing number of cybercrimes has encouraged businesses and individuals to adopt a robust security system. Gone are the days when traditional data centers were sufficient. Now that most companies are moving their operations and workflows to the cloud, these traditional units are often inefficient in securing sensitive data.

Your outsourced IT help desk services will enforce the best security protocols to keep your company safe and ensure streamlined business operations. For most companies (of all sizes), a firewall acts as the first line of defense against malware, ransomware, viruses, and other online threats. Likewise, Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) are used to deploy efficient security practices.

In this post, we will discuss Secure Web Gateways, Firewalls, and the differences between the two. We’ll also show you how combining these two latest security tools can boost your company’s network performance. Keep reading.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a security barrier between your network and the internet. It monitors the traffic entering and exiting your network, analyzes them thoroughly, and blocks their access if it detects anything against the predetermined set of protocols.

Firewalls are configured to block traffic based on previous attacks. They can be used as standalone security tools or in conjunction with SWG and other security tools for advanced protection. They analyze individual data packets and filter malicious traffic by matching them against the security database.

The efficiency of this security system relies on the predetermined database. IT companies have launched AI-powered firewall programs that detect all types of malwares.

If your firewall catches malicious activity from an external network, it won’t let this network access your systems. However, a firewall isn’t designed to block all traffic from the malicious website. It will only restrict suspicious data packets. While that’s a good thing, it’s also a security concern if you don’t have additional security tools in place.

What is an SWG?

The Secured Web Gateway, or SWG, is a security gateway that filters incoming and outgoing traffic on an application level. It can be software, hardware, or a combination of both used to track the source of traffic and detect unusual activity.

Unlike firewalls, SWGs operate on a higher level and are extremely efficient. The Secured Web Gateways block access to the entire web application or the malicious internet program. These are mostly used for classifying URLs as whitelisted and blacklisted, which in turn, decides which websites can access your network and which can’t.

SWG is also used to enforce robust security policies that protect your employees from phishing attacks, the most commonly occurring cybercrimes for three years in a row. Research shows that every second individual that becomes a victim of cyber-crimes falls for phishing attacks.

SWG prevents your employees from accessing an unencrypted website or accidentally sending unencrypted data to blacklisted websites.

One of the advanced security features of SWG is its ability to evaluate the data for any medical information, bank details, and confidential information that can’t be leaked to anyone. It automatically prevents the transmission of sensitive data. The security program can also restrict the size and type of data packets transferred between your organization’s network and the internet.

Key Differences Between Firewall and Secure Web Gateway

Both firewalls and SWG boost your network security, but they work in different ways and are packed with varying features. Let’s check out the key differences between the two.

Level of Security

SWG operates on an application level and offers broader and better control over the data transfer. You can completely block websites that look malicious by putting them in the blacklist category. This will restrict all data transfer between your network and this website.

The firewall, however, doesn’t block the entire site. It works on individual data packets and restricts their access to your network while allowing the other data packets to bypass your network security. If the entire site is infected, there’s a chance the firewall might miss out on the malicious data packets.


With SWG, you can set the website usage criteria by setting the limit for users who can visit the website, how often they can access it, and what data can be transferred.

Your outsourced IT help desk company can also put restrictions on what time of the day you can visit a particular website. The security system offers advanced customizable features, giving you better control over who can access your website and transfer data.

The firewall has limited customization options. It relies on the database based on known malware. An outdated firewall can’t detect new malware that has never been seen before, thus giving hackers easy access to your network. You need to use the most up-to-date version of the firewall to prevent the malware from slipping through.

Outgoing Traffic

SWG and firewalls also differ in the way they manage outgoing traffic—the transfer of data from your network to external websites. SWG restricts the type of data you share with third parties, especially unauthorized sources or unencrypted websites.

Firewalls come with the same capabilities, but they are predominantly deployed to detect malicious code in data packets. It’s not as robust as Secure Web Gateway. For small organizations looking for a system that can restrict outgoing traffic based on pre-set security policies, a firewall is your best bet.

Can SWG and Firewall Work Together?

SWG and firewall work great together. These are highly effective security systems for medium-to-large corporations that want ultimate protection from online threats. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is one such robust framework built with the combination of firewalls, secured web gateways, and other security tools.

Most SWGs consist of the malware-protection features of firewalls, and the latter comes packed with some of the SWG’s functionalities. Both systems can be implemented and synced for smoother operations and tighter security.

Bottom Line

The terms Firewall and SWG are used interchangeably. While these security tools are used for the same purpose, they work differently. It’s a good idea to implement both for robust protection, especially if you deal with sensitive data.

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