The Alphabet Soup of SASE: CASB vs. SWG, FWaaS, and more

5 min. read
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When constructing a WAN that is scalable and ready for digital transformation, the integration of enterprise networking features with cutting-edge security tools is vital. With a plethora of acronyms like SWG, CASB, and FWaaS filling the cybersecurity arena, it might seem like you've stumbled into a bowl of alphabet soup. However, these acronyms represent crucial tools that fortify an organization's defenses against security threats, each specifically tailored to tackle unique challenges in our digitally interconnected world.

As organizations navigate the maze of network security options, selecting the right solution—be it SWG or CASB—to shield their users is crucial. They must seek a solution that seamlessly meshes with their distinct network architecture. And while the mythical decoder ring might be just that—a myth—here’s a rundown of what these acronyms signify and how they can bolster your custom security stack.

What Does SASE Stand For?

To begin, let’s unravel the mystery of SASE. SASE, or Secure Access Service Edge, represents the evolutionary fusion of software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) functionalities with cloud-native security technologies, including firewall as a service (FWaaS), secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), zero trust network access (ZTNA), among others.

SASE solutions, in line with enterprise compliance policies, deliver cloud-based security services that safeguard users, applications, branch offices, and IoT devices. This additional security layer, when integrated with an SD-WAN solution, ensures more secure communications and optimizes data flow by prioritizing traffic.

Breaking Down SWG vs. CASB

SWG and CASB are both cloud-based proxy solutions that provide data and threat protection, yet they have some noteworthy differences.

What is a Secure Web Gateway (SWG)?

A secure web gateway serves as a shield between the end user and the internet, vetting web requests to ensure compliance with organizational policies. If a request seems linked to suspicious or malicious sites and applications, the gateway takes immediate action, either issuing a warning or blocking user access outright.

The SWG acts as a vital checkpoint for web traffic, offering secure internet access and thereby mitigating the risk of data breaches or leaks resulting from malware and other web-based threats.

What is a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)?

A CASB is a software or hardware solution that operates as an intermediary between end users and cloud service providers, ensuring comprehensive security policies across the entire network infrastructure, both on-premises and cloud-based.

CASBs are essential for protecting cloud applications by providing organizations with tools to identify and thwart unauthorized access. As the reliance on cloud services like Microsoft 365 grows, the importance of employing CASBs has never been higher.

By amalgamating the capabilities of SWG and CASB, enterprises can effectively secure users, their devices, and cloud-based applications. However, these are not the only security technologies housed under the SASE umbrella.

What are some other key SASE security features?

The security side of SASE, also known as Security Service Edge (SSE), includes various technologies that assist in creating a secure network. These include:

Remote browser isolation

Remote browser isolation is a security measure that separates users' devices from the act of Internet browsing by hosting and running all browsing activity in a remote, isolated cloud-based container. In other words, when a site isn’t explicitly approved or denied — perhaps because it’s a new or unknown site or a zero-day attack not yet classified — the request is sent to be executed in a safe sandbox environment where any active scripts containing malware, malicious code, or macros can be stripped out before the safe rendering is sent to the user. 

RBI provides critical protection for attacks such as zero-day threats, which SWG may not block because they are still unclassified.

Web application isolation

Web application isolation protects against web-based threats or unmanaged users that could target web-based applications.

The technology behind WAI is essentially the same as what’s used for RBI, only in reverse. Instead of protecting users from malicious websites, it prevents hackers from being able to attack and breach corporate web or cloud applications.

Data loss prevention

Data loss prevention detects and prevents the loss, leakage, or misuse of private, sensitive data through breaches, ex-filtration transmissions, and unauthorized use. 

If an employee or third party forwards an email against company policy, or uploads proprietary data to a file-sharing application such as Google Docs or even to generative AI websites, the upload would be blocked. DLP can also block users from using USB thumb drives for unauthorized copying.

Firewall as a service

Firewall as a service takes a different approach than most other types of firewalls by moving security functionality to the cloud. Instead of relying on physical firewall appliances or on-premises software, FWaaS leverages cloud infrastructure to deliver firewall capabilities as a service. 

This means organizations can protect devices anywhere in the world using cloud firewall capabilities instead of requiring local firewalls in all locations. They can then manage and configure their firewall policies using a centralized cloud-based management tool, eliminating the need for physical hardware maintenance and reducing the complexity of managing distributed firewall deployments.

The Advantages of a Unified SASE Solution

Employing security technologies from multiple vendors can lead to fragmented, complex, and potentially incompatible systems. A unified SASE solution from a single vendor, which consolidates all security technologies onto one management platform, emerges as the more effective approach. This not only reduces complexity but also provides a clear, singular view of the network for simplified management.

While single-vendor SASE solutions are increasingly becoming a reality, migrating an enterprise's entire stack to a full-fledged SASE architecture isn't an overnight task. That's where Nomios comes into play. We can help you develop a strategic roadmap that phases in SASE components at a manageable pace. Interestingly, we're also witnessing significant advancements in the Security Service Edge (SSE) space. For many organizations, SSE serves as an achievable stepping stone toward full SASE implementation. By first integrating SSE technologies, companies can make great strides in network security and set the stage for a seamless transition to a comprehensive SASE architecture.

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