Where other security suites are a metaphorical armed guard at the gates, Sophos is more like a standing army on the opposite side of a moat filled with rabies-infected alligators. In addition to antivirus protection you get ransomware protection, parental controls, malicious website blocking, phishing protection, remote management, real-time protection, and safeguards for privacy, malware, and banking. Whew.
For $50, you get one year of protection for up to 10 devices (See it at the Sophos website). That’s better than average pricing, especially considering the breadth of protection Sophos offers. The only catch is those devices need to be either a PC or a Mac. Sophos Home Premium doesn’t offer mobile device protection as part of its paid security suite.
Sophos Home Premium – Design and Features
The main interface for Sophos is stripped down to the bare essentials. There’s a button to clean your computer of any threats, and there’s a button to manage the software itself. That’s it. Clicking ‘Clean My Computer’ starts a deep scan.
Sophos protects against pretty much every threat a home user could face, and if you think I’m exaggerating it gave me a warning screen after installation to let me know a USB mouse was detected; that’s how paranoid it is. Naturally, Sophos asked I was going to allow it or block it, and it did the same for my other peripherals, too. Once I assured Sophos those were my peripherals and I did, in fact, want them attached to my PC, it started its initial scan. This is the type of feature that is for people who want to know absolutely everything that is connected to their PC at all times, and would be really helpful if someone had installed a USB keylogger in the back of your PC without you knowing about it.
The initial scan was very quick, and took less than two minutes, and though it didn’t find anything serious, it found and identified a ton of tracking cookies used for advertising I didn’t know were sitting on my drive. To its credit, Sophos didn’t inflate the danger, letting me know the threat level was extremely low, but offered to remove the cookies anyway. A follow-up scan took about the same amount of time, which is excellent.
Sophos also has some fairly simple parental controls, with a no-frills menu to block access to types of content. You can toggle each category of content to Allow, Warn, or Block via radio buttons for whole categories of sites, or by general content like violence and even tobacco use. It’s an easy-to-use web filtering feature that isn’t as robust like something you’d find in a router but as an add-on it’s appreciated.
Setting “Alcohol & Tobacco” to “warning” served up a pop-up when I went to visit a famous whiskey maker’s website, but it didn’t do anything when I visited some vaping supply sites. You can also block and warn against social media sites, and for things like photo sharing, personal ads, and a slew of other types of content. There’s also an option to whitelist certain sites, which is helpful if you come across a website that’s giving false-positives. It’s extremely easy to control, and goes into effect as soon make your selections. In addition to filtering for content, you can also restrict access to the Internet for all connected clients as well.
Sophos also has built-in ransomware protection, which is a costly problem these days. Ransomware encrypts your files and demands payment to get them decrypted, and Sophos protects not only your files but your master boot record as well, which is a step beyond most security packages.
Easily the most unique feature of Sophos, and this is a nod to the software’s enterprise roots, is that you can run checkups on licensed PCs remotely, which is a unique and handy feature if you’re the IT guy in your family. Sophos lets you check in on things from its web portal, and since it’s a web-based, it’s the same management interface on any device you access, so you don’t need to install a new app in addition to a program on your computer: it’s all controlled through the web portal.
You can scan your computer via the Sophos secure web portal. It delivers your results, offers to fix any issues it discovers, and keeps a log of all activity on the web portal. I installed it on my kids computers and was able to run scans and set parental controls from my own computer, or from any PC just by logging into the Sophos portal.
Sophos Home Premium – Testing
Since our sister publication PCMag.com does extremely thorough testing on antivirus suites, in addition to my hand-on testing I’ve also relied on their lab oriented results for this evaluation. First up is malware, and when it comes to detecting and blocking this nefarious stuff Sophos performed well, and was able to detect 92 percent of malware thrown at it, and it also blocked 92% of malicious URLs. That’s impressive, but Symantec and WebRoot detected and blocked 100% of malware.
Phishing is an increasingly difficult problem, with scammers becoming more adept at tricking users, but Sophos makes up for human error nicely. It scored just two points below Norton, the standard against which other phishing detection is measured against. It also beats out built-in browser phishing detection by a slight margin, besting Explorer’s built-in by 15 percent, Firefox by 4 percent, and Chrome by 5 percent.
When it comes to ransomware, which encrypts your files and demands ransom to get them back, Sophos offered strong protection. In PCMag’s testing the main anti-virus component detected and eliminated every ransomware package they opened via its real-time protection feature. With that disabled, and the test re-run after being reverted to a clean state, it detected all but one, and that’s without real-time protection enabled, which is impressive. Only one suite they tested found them all in this environment. Sophos was also able to catch ransomware at startup; something few suites are capable of these days.
Sophos comes in two flavors: free and Premium. Features of the free version are pretty good, actually, with the antivirus, parental control, malware protection, and remote management functionality all enabled for up to 3 devices. For $50 annually, you unlock the full featured-suite, including ransomware protection, banking protection, and more, for up to 10 devices.