Cylance, Sophos Trade Heated Words, With A Reseller Partner Caught In The Middle

A war of words between Cylance and Sophos that began last week continues to escalate, with both sides now accusing the other of throwing their mutual reseller partner under the bus.

The reseller got caught in the middle of a heated battle between the two vendors after a ’rogue employee’ of the reseller allegedly gave Sophos access to Cylance’s next-generation endpoint security solution for testing, Cylance said in a blog post Friday, something that is typically forbidden by manufacturer agreements.

Neither Abingdon, U.K.-based Sophos nor Cylance, Irvine, Calif., would confirm the name of the reseller partner involved in the dispute.

[Related: Sophos Slams Cylance In Blog Post As Market For Endpoint Security Heats Up]

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Cylance in the blog post called the move to get access to the technology ’dirty tactics’ and a sign of Sophos ’[throwing] a partner under the proverbial bus just to target a startup.’

’It’s not surprising that this legacy AV vendor would resort to dirty tactics and essentially use a partner to wage a proxy war. The vendor was caught with their hand in the cookie jar and [is] now attempting to spin the matter into something else entirely. By letting their employees put partners at risk for violations of an agreement, it’s clear to see how little this vendor values their partners,’ the Cylance blog post said.

The comments came after Sophos published a blog post Thursday highlighting a video in which Dan Schiappa, senior vice president and general manager of the End User Security Group, ran the company’s Endpoint Protection solution against CylanceProtect. The video showed Sophos beating Cylance in protection against a number of categories of malware, something Cylance alleges was due to ’purposely disabled key features that would make it seem like Cylance Protect was not as effective as we have claimed.’

In an email statement to CRN this weekend, Schiappa said Cylance’s response was to ’threaten legal action against one of its reseller partners’ and ’demanded that the reseller ask us to take down the video.’ Schiappa said Sophos took down the video while the situation was being clarified.

’To be clear, Sophos has not been contacted by Cylance and to our knowledge Cylance has not disputed the accuracy of any information contained in the video. Furthermore (and like with all Sophos-produced material), Sophos stands by the validity of the information we publish,’ Schiappa said in an email to CRN. ’Effective cybersecurity solutions are needed now more than ever. Sophos values innovation, truth and authenticity, and so do I.’

In the blog post, Cylance said that after tracking down the partner using information from screenshots shown in the video, the reseller partner in question was alerted to its employee’s alleged involvement in the video. The company said the reseller partner ’quickly sided with [Cylance]’ then contacted Sophos on its own to have the video removed.’

’Cylance highly values our channel partner relationships and will continue to support them by enabling potential customers to test any endpoint product -- including Cylance -- for themselves to help make the best-informed decisions,’ Cylance Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales Nick Warner said in an email statement to CRN. Cylance did not provide a direct comment on the question of any legal action threatened against the partner.

Karl Bickmore, CEO of Snap Tech IT, a Sophos partner with locations in the Southwest and Georgia, said he has seen both companies targeting each other in recent months.

Bickmore said the back and forth is a sign of the increase in attention being put on the endpoint security market. He said his business gets ’way more calls’ about endpoint security than it used to.

’It’s a reflection of what’s happening out there. We all have clients that are getting nailed with new security attacks and in the last couple of years it’s been a significant shift,’ Bickmore said. ’It is so incredibly prevalent today that it doesn’t surprise me that there’s now conversation around that.’ He said he prefers to partner with Sophos because the company offers a broader range of security solutions.

Sophos and Cylance, however, did agree on one thing – that partners play a critical role in helping customers navigate the complicated market for endpoint security.

’We did our very best to make the comparison fair, factual and balanced. The conclusion highlighted the need for resellers and partners to do their own due diligence into product claims when choosing the most appropriate security solution for their needs,’ Sophos’ Schiappa said.