Sophos: An update

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Two weeks ago I posted an article about the occasional problems of getting false positives in security software fixed, and specifically about our recent problems when trying to solve a problem related to a Sophos security product. A user had reported being prevented from using Vivaldi to browse the net by their company’s firewall.

Some commenters thought we were either too hard on Sophos, or hadn’t properly checked the issue before contacting Sophos.

These comments ignore a few of the issues we mentioned:

  • We had a report about the users being blocked.
  • We also had information from the same report about Sophos customer support claiming we did not support an API, the implication being that we were being blocked because of this.
  • Either of these would be reason good enough to contact Sophos to learn about why this was happening, especially given that we should have the same API support as other Chromium based browsers.
  • We then spent 5 weeks not getting answers to our questions.

Part of our goal with the article was to inform Sophos publicly (just like we had at at least one occasion done privately) that we were not satisfied with how the process was going, and to try to get it escalated.

The next day it got escalated to a support manager, and we started getting real answers to our questions.

First of all, there was no central block by Sophos regarding Vivaldi; the block had been configured by the administrator of the customer installation. We are not yet clear on why the administrator did this, although our not being on the filtering feature support list has been mentioned as a possibility. This particular piece of information was never forwarded to us, and as far as we can tell was not provided to the original reporter, either.

The second part was that the API support was NOT something required to be supported by the browsers. The APIs in question concerned Windows API functionality used by Sophos to configure firewall and network filtering for specific applications.

This functionality is not presently enabled for Vivaldi, because those features had not been tested with Vivaldi. Sophos is now moving to get this functionality enabled and tested with Vivaldi, probably to be released in early Q1 2020.

A part of the confusion regarding Vivaldi and Sophos concerned this functionality, and some of it may have been caused by different understanding of phrases like «Product X is supported». In many cases a vendor will write this and mean «We only answer support questions about X, not Y», while most users will read it as «Since Y is not listed, Y does not work with this vendor’s product».

Regarding Sophos, their page regarding their filtering functionality, they listed a number of browsers for which this feature was enabled (thus «supported»); it said nothing about whether or not other browsers worked on a system using Sophos.

Much of the rest of the confusion that developed in this case was likely caused by misunderstanding information provided to the people at the reporter’s company, and more details may then have been lost when they were passed on during the several steps it passed through before it got to us. A possible way to reduce such confusion is to always use email for questions and answers, any chat logs should be archived.

One of the things we realized in the aftermath of this is that our Bug reporting form and help pages did not ask for details about any third-party software that might be involved in the problem, and we have now updated the bug reporting help page to specify what we need in such cases: Product name and version, relevant error messages, and if available information about any support contacts, such as support case numbers.

The lack of product and version info about the installation was part of the problems we had when contacting Sophos support, since it made it difficult to get in touch with the right people.

We are quite satisfied with the responses from Sophos in the past two weeks.

3 thoughts on “Sophos: An update”

  1. Yes, communication, lack of information and misunderstanding in the meaning of «support X» are real problems — not only between browsers and AV/Firewall vendors.
    Good that it worked out in the end.
    Well done 🙂

  2. Yes, miscommunication can be hard on both parties. The End User feels that the Vendor doesn’t care, the Vendor wonders why the End User keeps bugging them for no reason or the same reason with too little info.
    Another issue I have come across is one party says something and the other party seems to reply to something else when actually both are talking about the same thing using a different phraseology. They end up not understanding each other… well you know where that can go,

    Good on you to work on expanding your reporting page to handle some of this (where applicable)..
    Glad to hear things are working out.

  3. I have also recently received further feedback from Sophos. Sophos alleges (as mentioned above) that our admin blocked Vivaldi.
    Our admin alleges that he did not block Vivaldi.
    I suspect that Vivaldi was «detected» and locally blocked after an update for Sophos (on the same day that Vivaldi was blocked, there was also an update for Sohpos).

    But many thanks again

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