What is the future of SWG?

An abstract image of digital security.
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As companies began to do more business online and faced the first wave of digital attacks, many turned to web proxies to protect their networks. Over time, as online threats became more sophisticated and networks grew even larger, businesses turned to secure web gateways (SWGs) for cybersecurity.

Now, as businesses enter the era of remote work and the threat of network intrusions from the web is greater than ever, businesses are looking for the next generation of SWGs.

Next-generation SWGs have to be flexible enough to meet the needs of large and distributed workforces that do most of their work online. They also need to be advanced enough to protect against increasingly sophisticated attacks from cybercriminals.

So, what does the future of SWGs look like? We’ll take a look at five features that are likely to define the next generation of SWGs.

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Perimeter 81 is one of TechRadar's choices for the best SWG providers

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1. AI algorithms to recognize threats in real-time

As the future of work becomes increasingly distributed, employees won’t always be behind a company’s firewall. This means businesses will need to rely more on their SWG to identify and stop threats in real-time.

One way that SWGs can do this is to incorporate AI algorithms. AI has the ability to detect suspicious patterns in data transmission from a compromised website that may be harboring malware. It could potentially close off a connection or issue a warning to the user, preventing malware from being downloaded to a company’s network.

AI can also monitor for unusual behavior on the part of a user. If a user is accessing a series of potentially malicious sites or uploading sensitive data, the SWG’s AI could potentially alert a company’s IT team. This type of alert can serve as an early warning that an intruder has breached the company’s network, thus giving the IT team a chance to respond before severe damage is done.

2. Scalable deployment for large and remote teams

The shift to remote work is both a challenge and an opportunity for enhancing organizations’ cybersecurity strategies. Businesses now need to protect a network that is not contained within a single physical office but rather distributed around the world. 

As a result, next-generation SWGs will mainly be deployed in the cloud rather than on-premises. Employees on a business’s network can transfer data through a cloud-based SWG, no matter where they are. There’s no need to route traffic through on-premises servers, which could dramatically increase latency and slow down operations.

Cloud-based SWGs could also serve as control points for SWG applications installed on users’ individual devices. This edge computing approach would further reduce latency while still enabling IT administrators to control web permissions for employees using a company’s network.

3. Seamless functionality for cloud apps

Migrating services like email, data storage, and even security features to the cloud has a number of advantages. Cloud platforms are more scalable, more redundant, and often cheaper than traditional on-premises solutions.

However, moving essential business services onto the cloud means that employees are spending more of their day online. In addition, there are more sensitive data being transferred back and forth between companies’ networks and the web.

SWGs not only need to be able to handle that increased flow of data but also offer granular control over how employees transmit and receive data from cloud apps. IT teams should have the power to limit which cloud apps employees can access and what types of data they can access or upload.

Just as important, these controls need to be dynamic to adapt to rapidly changing projects and employee needs. AI and machine learning algorithms may play an important role in helping IT teams manage permissions to reduce the demand for manual oversight.

4. Advanced data loss prevention tools

The recent uptick in ransomware and hack-and-leak attacks has shown how important it is for companies to be able to head off major data loss events. The average cost of a data breach in the US climbed to nearly $9.5 million last year.

Many SWGs already have features in place to prevent data losses. For example, Perimeter 81 enables IT administrators to restrict file transfers from a company’s network based on keywords and content signatures. This can be extremely powerful for preventing the unauthorized transfer of payment information, Social Security numbers, health data, or trade secrets.

Future SWGs could take these existing data loss prevention tools one step further. AI algorithms could potentially enable or prevent file transfers using context-aware searches that are much more granular than today’s keyword-based searches.

Next-generation SWGs could also implement automated approval pipelines for large data transfers, thus alerting IT administrators or managers before sensitive data leaves a company.

5. Integration with other secure access service edge tools

Many cybersecurity experts are promoting secure access service edge (SASE) strategies as the future of digital defense. SASE brings together multiple cybersecurity tools, including SWGs, cloud access security brokers, firewalls, and zero-trust network access solutions.

Next-generation SWGs will increasingly come packaged as part of comprehensive cybersecurity suites rather than standalone tools. These suites will offer seamless integration between tools to offer a more secure perimeter around businesses’ networks. 

For businesses in search of a new SWG, it’s important to ensure that the tool you choose is compatible with the other pillars of your cybersecurity strategy.


The digital needs of businesses and the cybersecurity landscape are changing rapidly, and SWGs are adapting to keep up. The future of SWGs will rely more heavily on AI to provide greater protection against sophisticated threats as well as flexibility for cloud-based apps. Next-generation SWGs will also be cloud-based to serve growing remote teams and offer deeper integrations with other SASE tools.

Michael Graw

Michael Graw is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Bellingham, Washington. His interests span a wide range from business technology to finance to creative media, with a focus on new technology and emerging trends. Michael's work has been published in TechRadar, Tom's Guide, Business Insider, Fast Company, Salon, and Harvard Business Review.