This review will compare the benefits and flaws of two different antivirus suites, the premium solutions from Kaspersky and Sophos.
Kaspersky Lab was founded in 1997, and as of 2016 held the largest market share in the European antivirus industry. Much of its industry prestige comes from its success in investigating new and emergent antivirus threats alongside companies like Microsoft.
With over 30 years in the antivirus industry, Sophos has a long and storied history in this sector, focusing on holistic endpoint connection over multiple devices in a network.
Regardless of industry reputation, the most important thing is how well the program protects your personal devices during everyday use.
This review contains a comprehensive breakdown of the differences between the two suites. I will examine each software’s performance impact, features, efficacy against malware, price, ease of signup and installation, and the accessibility of each user interface.
If you are strapped for time, or do not want to read through a full comparison, here is a brief summary of my findings.
I found Kaspersky offers a much better deal as a consumer grade antivirus product. Its feature list far outstrips Sophos’, and while both performed well when put against my own anti-malware tests, only one company is rated as a top contender by independent antivirus comparison sites: Kaspersky.
Here’s what I found when comparing Kaspersky to Sophos:
- Top rating among different antivirus comparison websites
- Wide ranging feature list
- Sophisticated real-time anti-malware solutions
- Remote security management
- Multi-device coverage
- Malware scan and deep clean software
|Antivirus and Antispyware||✔||✔|
|Banking and Payment Protection||✔||✔|
|Network Attack Protection||✔||✔|
|Automatically update apps||✔||✖|
|VPN||✔||As a separate subscription|
|Identity theft protection||✔||✔|
Kaspersky was founded 23 years ago in Moscow, Russia by Eugene and Natalya Kaspersky. It cut its teeth on defense against new and innovative cybersecurity attacks – the foundational Kaspersky Lab program being developed several years before the company itself.
Sophos was founded in 1985 in Abingdon, in the United Kingdom by Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer.
It started with the development of end-point security throughout the late 1980s and into the early 90s. It later reoriented itself towards wider antivirus coverage towards the turn of the century. It has over 3,000 employees and operates in over 150 countries.
Pricing and Compatibility
|Software||Price||OS Requirements||Memory Requirements|
|Kaspersky Anti-Virus||$29.99 / year (discounted from $54.99)||Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7; Dial up Connection||1GB RAM (PC) 2GB RAM (Mac); 1500 MB Disk Space|
|Kaspersky Internet Security||$39.99 / year (discounted from $79.99)||Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7; Mac OS X 10.12; Android 4.4; iOS 11.0; Dial up Connection||1GB RAM (PC) 2GB RAM (Mac); 1.5 GB (PC) 1.6 GB (Mac)|
|Kaspersky Total Security||$49.99 / year (discounted from $99.99)||Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7; Mac OS X 10.12; Android 4.4; iOS 11.0; Dial up Connection;||1GB RAM (PC) 2GB RAM (Mac); 1.5 GB (PC) 1.6 GB (Mac)|
|Sophos Free Antivirus||N/A||Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, or Windows 10 (Note: ARM architecture is not supported); Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra or higher;||1 GB of RAM (PC) 4 GB of RAM (Mac); 1 GB Disk Space (PC) 4 GB Disk Space (Mac)|
Note: An additional 3GB of free space required for ransomware protection (Cryptoguard) to function.
|Sophos Premium Antivirus||$45 / year (discounted from $60)||Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, or Windows 10 (Note: ARM architecture is not supported); Mac OS X 10.12 Sierra or higher;||1 GB of RAM (PC) 4 GB of RAM (Mac); 1 GB Disk Space (PC) 4 GB Disk Space (Mac)|
Note: An additional 3GB of free space required for ransomware protection (Cryptoguard) to function.
The basic protection offered by Kaspersky is its Kaspersky Anti-Virus solution. This retails on its website for $29.99 dollars for up to three devices, discounted from $54.99.
Kaspersky Internet Security
The company’s mid range solution, a balance of cheaper price and a larger suite than the other two. At the time of writing, this solution retails at a $40 discount from the usual $79.99 price at $39.99 on its website.
Kaspersky Total Security
Kaspersky’s premium solution is its Total Security production, which is more expensive than the previous two entries in its antivirus range but is also offered at a much steeper discount. Coverage for three devices normally retails for $99.99 for one year, but is currently being sold for $49.99 at a $50 discount.
Sophos Free Antivirus
The free antivirus tools on offer from Sophos include AI-led real-time antivirus, parental controls, web protection, remote management and coverage of three different devices.
Sophos Premium Antivirus
Sophos Premium Antivirus retails for $60 for one year, although is offered at the time of writing on its website at a 25% discount, putting its price point at $45 for the first year.
This suite offers protection for up to 10 devices, covering malware removal, ransomware security, banking and privacy protection, web security and parental controls, remote network management and premium support.
Effectiveness against malware
The primary concern for any antivirus review is how effective each antivirus system is against cybersecurity threats. These threats include viruses, malware, worms and trojans. A program that can quickly and effectively stop any attacks of this kind is vital.
To test the two products, I will first examine how each performs against malware test files from the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research. There are four sample files, each one simulating various different malware scenarios.
I am looking to see if the programs detect and block the samples, and how they do that. They will also be put up against some live malware samples, including adware and trojans.
This table shows how the two antivirus programs performed against the samples from EICAR:
|Test File||Eicar Sample 1||Eicar Sample 2||Eicar Sample 3||Eicar Sample 4|
As you can see, both suites blocked all EICAR files in real time, demonstrating the efficacy of the two different antivirus software at handling malware. Blocking in real time demonstrates the ability of the software’s base background protection, not how effective its scans are. What we can see from this table and the table below is both have powerful real-time scanning options.
The table below shows how both suites perform against actual examples of malware. Each premium software was put to one adware sample and two strains of Trojan attacks. Here is how they did:
|Test File||Live Sample 1 (Adware)||Live Sample 2 (Trojan)||Live Sample 3 (Trojan)|
In this instance, Sophos blocked all of the live sample files, and Kaspersky blocked the adware, but only detected the latter two samples. The difference here is that Sophos blocked the downloads, but Kaspersky only located the other live samples after they had been downloaded to the machine.
Next, I checked the full scan function of both antivirus programs. I compared the time that a full scan takes to finish and how many items a scan covers during its runtime.
|Test Type||Full Scan Time (minutes)||Full Scan # Items Scanned|
Not only compared to Sophos, but also several other antivirus competitors, Kaspersky’s full scan takes a long time. Clocking in at 3 hours and 47 minutes to scan just over 2 million different items, it is several magnitudes larger than not only Sophos’, but other companies that were also put to the same test. Of all these companies, only Bitdefender delved deeper, but it did so in under half the time.
Sophos’s full scan takes only 15 minutes to complete, much less time than its competitor. One important factor to note is that Sophos offers no details whatsoever in regards to how far its scans delve, or any details of its scans beyond if it finds any threats. This is odd for AV software, as most let users know what was scanned in that time.
After this analysis, I turned to some industry standard independent benchmark investigations of the two products. AV-Comparatives is a market leader in running these tests, with two testing styles of particular note.
The Real World Protection Test examines how the programs cope with online threats, testing the effectiveness of the entire suite, not just the antivirus tools. Its Malware Protection Test examines how the programs deal with virus samples plugged in from USBs and network drivers.
On its Real World Protection Test, AV-Comparatives ranks Kaspersky at 99.9% protection rating, having blocked all but one of the 754 sample threats the site put against it.
When put to the March 2020 Malware Protection Test, Kaspersky again placed in the upper cluster for its functionality against active malware threats. It scored a Malware Protection rating of 99.97%, with a system being compromised in only three of 10,249 different malware infection scenarios.
AV comparatives ranks Kaspersky’s protection as “advanced+” in both tests, placing it in the top three-star rating for performance against cybersecurity threats.
Sophos was not included in the antivirus solutions examined by AV-Comparatives.
Impact on PC performance
In comparison reviews, I examine how each antivirus software impacts system performance with quick scans and full scans.
To see how Kaspersky and Sophos impacted PC performance, I recorded how system resources were used by each program when idle. I then recorded the same metrics during both a quick scan and full scan.
This table demonstrates the control CPU and memory usage during a quick scan.
|Test Type||Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||Quick Scan CPU Utilization %||Quick Scan Memory Utilization %||Quick Scan Time (seconds)|
It should be noted that Sophos does not actually offer a quick scan. For Kaspersky, the figures show its quick scan CPU utilization increased on the control by 35%, and impacted memory utilization by 3%, over a 273 second time frame.
The table below shows the performance impact during full scans of each product.
|Test Type||Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||Full Scan CPU Utilization %||Full Scan Memory Utilization %||Full Scan Time (minutes)|
Kaspersky’s scan increases the CPU usage up to 100% from 46%, and increases memory utilization by 6%. Sophos’ scan provides an 18% increase in CPU utilization and a 4% impact on memory usage.
It should be noted that Sophos’ scan is highly irregular in that it takes ust 15 minutes and does not openly disclose any data on how deep its scan delves, or any details aside from the scan time.
Kaspersky and Sophos offer additional features aside from the antivirus scanner. Below is a short summary of the key features offered by each antivirus suite. In this section I will then further break down some of the key features offered outside of normal antivirus.
- Real-Time Antivirus
- Automatic Exploit Prevention
- Trojan Remover
- Instant Threat Detection
- Malicious Link Detector
- Malware Defender
- Trusted Application Mode
- Custom Hardened Browser
- Two-Way Firewall
- Payment Protection
- App Lock
- Privacy Browsing
- Webcam Protection
- Malware Remover
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Real-Time Antivirus
- Ransomware Security
- Banking Protection
- Privacy Protection
- Identity Protection
- Advanced Web Security
- Parental Web Filtering
- Remote Management
- Premium Support
- Up to 10 Devices
Below are two features that particularly stood out from each of their tool lists.
Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
A VPN encrypts your internet connection and routes it through an intermediary server controlled by the provider. It increases online privacy, secures your internet connection, and lets you access geographically restricted content.
The free VPN is an extremely limited one, with a 200MB/day data cap, which can be extended to 300MB/day if you register your email address with Kaspersky. This adds up to a decent data cap per month for browsing securely, but it makes attempting to stream or download anything on that plan problematic. The expanded 300MB/day VPN is included in Kaspersky Total Security.
A premium subscription for Kaspersky’s VPN will cost you $4.99 extra for a monthly subscription, and paying for a full year up front drops that price to roughly $1.67 a month. While you get a much smaller feature list compared to leaders in the VPN market like ExpressVPN or Hotspot Shield, you do pay a fraction of the price for it.
The app is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android, with respectable internet speeds on each system.
The VPN lacks a kill switch—data security when VPN connection drops—and only has locations available in 18 countries.
Sophos Remote Security Management
Sophos’ central focus is endpoint cybersecurity for businesses, and network management is a large focus of that. So it comes as no surprise that its consumer antivirus entry contains traces of this ethos.
If you purchase the company’s 10 device premium protection, and you were using it to protect a family for instance, you can nominate one device to have security management privileges on all the other devices.
With Sophos Home you can manage the security for multiple PCs and Macs, no matter where they are located in the world.
Sign up and installation
The sign up and installation process for both Kaspersky and Sophos was very swift and efficient. Each website takes a couple of clicks to get to the installation pages for the software. Each includes options for a free trial before you click through to purchase the premium programs.
Kaspersky’s website is clearly laid out, with the installation path relatively easy to follow. It took me three clicks and a slight amount of scrolling to get to their checkout page, with a standard four-step process to purchase the product.
The story was roughly similar with Sophos’s website. There is a key difference. One of the central benefits of Sophos’ AV software is what it provides in free trials. While it offers a downloadable free trial, it also lets you run its AV software in an online simulated environment, which allows for a glimpse of how it operates without downloading anything.
How easy is the interface to use?
The screenshots included here show a very similar design between the two interfaces. Both utilize strong, distinct panels, white buttons on light gray, and cleanly drawn geometric icons to orient the user.
With Sophos, interactive panels are denoted by white on gray, and orange highlights showing new areas of development.
For me, Kaspersky’s layout comes out on top. The text is clearer, the organization of its larger feature list into much easier to navigate.
Kaspersky’s support center is accessible both through its apps and its website, as a part of a central banner displayed on all pages of its website. Through this interface, it provides access to FAQs, a support email address, and a knowledge base forum.
Sophos also offers 24/7 support and a user knowledge base in its forums. This is easily accessible through the top banner of its website. The company’s premium support has paid technicians available for live email and chat from 8am-8pm EST Monday-Friday, and has a knowledge base for quick topic search – including its FAQs and general topic coverage.
While it performed well against the EICAR and live malware samples, Sophos lacks some basic expectations of a premium antivirus suite, namely no webcam protection, no encrypted storage, and no quick scan.
It also is not reviewed by a large portion of popular independent AV testing websites, and a 15 minute scan with no additional details shared with its user base lacks transparency.
For these reasons, the choice in this review is Kaspersky. Kaspersky provides a more extensive suite of protective features in its antivirus solutions, and is held in much higher esteem among independent antivirus testing labs due to its strong performance.