Sophos: Protecting the world from The Pentagon

Summary:Behind the security lines: In the second part of a special report looking at IT security research centres, ZDNet UK crosses the moat that protects Sophos’ Oxford-based facility

For Sophos, security starts at home. The imposing high-tech facility outside of Oxford, known as The Pentagon, houses the security specialist's antivirus labs. The building, allegedly bullet-proof, comes complete with its own moat to discourage ram raiders. Wedges placed at the entry and exit of the building's car park also create a temporary but effective road-block when raised.

This kind of robust attention to detail is indicative of a security company that has carved out a niche serving the business market and sees between 1500 and 1600 new pieces of malware per month. "The [advantage] in setting up for business users is that with our customers who have 10,000 employees, we speak to only one person in charge of IT rather than having to deal with 10,000 different customers," said Carole Thierault, senior security consultant at Sophos. "That means our response times are faster than our competitors."

Click here for the first part of this special report looking at Symantec's labs.

This also means, according to Sophos, that it can divert more resources to the specific needs of its business customers. "We can tailor our AV software to individual customers. We run antivirus software for OS2, Open VMS and other, older operating systems. Businesses still run on these because of their initial investment," says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Sophos' main team may seem small compared to its competitors but the company claims that fewer staff equals flexibility. "There are 30 guys here who are research analysts, with a further 20 guys around the world," says Vanja Svajcer, principal virus researcher.

Around the world
The UK antivirus and anti-spam analysts do shift work, and can outsource queries to other parts of the company and to external consultants. In addition to its own international group of labs and offices, Sophos has a network of partner organisations in 150 countries that can also provide support.

For photos of The Pentagon, click here.

Sophos traps viruses and analyses them in a secure section of The Pentagon. No one is allowed to bring in any piece of equipment that could infect the machines or itself be infected. Wireless may be flexible but it's not secure enough for Sophos — Wi-Fi enabled laptops and Bluetooth phones must be left outside the labs.

Sophos uses a global network of "honeypots" to harvest the latest viruses, Trojans and worms that may poise a threat to its customers. Honeypots are essentially unprotected PCs...

For more, click here...

Topics: Security


Tom is a technology reporter for, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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