If you’ve ever seen a “blocked page” screen while surfing the Internet at the office, your company uses URL filtering. IT has the responsibility to maintain a “blacklist” of URLs or search terms. This blacklist blocks access to pages that violate company policies or may contain malware. URL filtering occurs at the basic level, but a cloud security gateway adds a layer of protection that detects dangers by inspecting page contents and ensuring incoming traffic is not carrying malware or violating policies.
According to Gartner, a cloud security gateway (CSG) is a cloud service that filters unwanted software and malware from cloud traffic before it gains access to business networks or individual devices. A cloud security gateway enforces corporate and personal policy compliance.
At a minimum, these gateways must include URL filtering, malicious-code detection and filtering, and application controls for popular web applications. CSGs provide advanced network protection by inspecting web requests against well-defined network policies. A CSG ensures that malicious applications and websites are blocked and inaccessible.
CSGs are cloud services. All the filtering, inspection, and policy enforcement happens in the cloud. There is no need for costly physical appliances to buy, deploy, or manage. A CSG is an unseen, unavoidable barrier protecting us from threats and attacks all around us. When configured correctly, a CSG hides the dangers that exist all around us in the cloud.
How does a Cloud Security Gateway work?
CSGs create persistent connections between cloud services and the networks we control directly. These connections allow access to specific resources in our network. This may sound simple. It is not only simple; it is a quick and secure method to provide safe connections from the cloud to our environments at a more granular level instead of the network level.
The CSG is a policy enforcement point between our networks and the cloud applications that individuals use. With a cloud security gateway in place, management teams have visibility into cloud services. With this visibility, on-premise and cloud protections align to protect data from malicious applications.
Benefits of a Cloud Security Gateway
With the Internet growing exponentially, companies are discovering that blocking cloud services isn’t enough. CSGs provide a level of security that firewalls are unable to achieve. Firewall protection determines whether or not a connection is valid. CSGs go beyond a cursory check and look into the behavior of the user and their activity.
For example, when a service has been blacklisted by IT, employees often find a way to side-step the blocked service by searching for lesser-known, possibly higher risk, services not yet blacklisted. In these cases, the URL block only increased the problem. Unlike a firewall, a CSG can track, report, or prevent these security challenges.
Cloud security gateways can provide more and better protection due to the following:
1. Visibility into all cloud services
Security professionals find that a cloud security gateway is a simple way to address their primary cloud security challenges. They are placing more trust in what CSGs provide, working with them as partners. Malware detection, behavior tools, and data loss prevention top the list of gateway adoption conditions – each requiring visibility into services to be effective.
2. Secure data
With growing remote workforces and employees using their own devices, existing security technologies are evaded each time valuable data gets transferred to the cloud. A CSG can enforce encryption for data uploaded to the cloud or already stored within a cloud service.
3. DLP Compliance
Data loss prevention (DLP) practices protect against data leaks and external breaches. Cloud data loss prevention activities can provide consistent protection of financial data, regulated health information, and intellectual property information.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, an effective CSG will, at a minimum, provide the following three protections.
Today, employees can work from anywhere. The need for restrictions has increased. It is IT’s responsibility to ensure the safety of valuable and sensitive data regardless of the employees’ physical location. To do that, they enforce restrictions like allowing users to access only those websites and web applications necessary for work, thus preventing them from stumbling upon malicious websites and distractions. URL filtering not only improves productivity but also ensures security.
Malicious-code detection and filtering
Researchers see a spike in malware activity. They estimate that thousands of new malware variants get introduced daily. Malware has become ubiquitous. The number of attacks and threats on the Internet will rise even higher. Malware is becoming more sophisticated, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, which only increases the danger. Not just IT will feel the results of this increased activity. We all will. Some malware will install and distribute through the most popular and used websites and social media platforms.
Application controls for popular web applications
Standards exist to help define and regulate security compliance in web applications. They are valuable and needed, but standards and regulations are meaningless to cybercriminals and basement hackers alike. Ensuring that the web applications used by your employees are compliant with standards and adhering to regulatory requirements is a good practice. With that said, security measures must be in place to control all applications, whether they say they are compliant or not.
Cloud security gateways use pattern recognition, usage behavior, traffic patterns, and more to add valuable application controls to a network’s security model. Malware hidden within web applications is widely used and demands more advanced security measures.
Exium’s Cloud Security Gateway (CSG) identifies over 3,000 protocols and applications, blocks or limits website access by identifying malicious sites and automatically preventing web-based attacks. Delivery from the cloud lets you restore your security perimeter by providing always-on security that follows the user, regardless of location. CSG offers full visibility into cloud services across the enterprise, helping you uncover new services, see who is using them, identify potential risks, and block specific applications.
Robyn Westervelt, Research Director for Data Security at IDC, states:
“Cloud security gateways are emerging as an intrinsic component of a pervasive data defense solution set. CSGs are the glue that creates cohesive policy enforcement across all channels by tightly integrating traditional secure web gateways and data loss prevention platforms.”
Cloud security gateways provide the necessary control point to protect your business from web-based threats, providing visibility into your web traffic to uncover attacks, and apply solutions that keep your business operating safely. With CSGs, you can confidently embrace the cloud without sacrificing security or endangering compliance.