Sophos has underlined its ongoing move from software-only security to hardware with the launch of a new managed web filtering appliance.

The WS1000 is the company’s first web-oriented hardware system, and uses a number of techniques to monitor for and block threats such as Trojans, adware, spyware and viruses that arrive on networks through browsers, the company said.

Aimed at the crowded market niche between 100 and 1,500 users, the appliance’s main defence is a sophisticated form of URL filtering which not only blocks known websites from a Sophos-compiled database but sets out to anticipate successive malware downloads from such sites using URL categorisation technology.

Primarily designed to be managed remotely, the appliance also embeds the company’s application control technology, whereby specific types of often contentious P2P applications can be blocked, or allowed to run in a controlled manner.

“We have the unique component of the managed appliance. We are doing the thinking for you,” said Graham Cluley of Sophos, referring to the fact that customers would be buying a semi-managed product that updated its parameters on an hourly basis. This would keep intervention to a minimum on the customer’s part.

The company was embedding its own engine to perform all the primary tasks, he said, in contrast to many rival vendors that had integrated multiple anti-malware components from different companies. Sophos did however plan to to add to its own URL analysis database by licensing additional URL data from SurfControl, he confirmed. This would affect future versions of the product.

The WS1000 could juggle its various security tasks without sacrificing performance, Cluley insisted.

"Malicious attackers are moving at a greater speed than ever before - some changing their web-hosted malware every 15 minutes to try and avoid detection. Our ability to track billions of web pages for malicious code means that organisations can deploy the (…) defence against all threats," said Sophos CEO Steve Munford.

Sophos has moved stealthily into the hardware market, driven by customer demand for automation. In the last year it has shipped an email security appliance, as well as a software-based intrusion prevention system that can also be embedded in dedicated hardware.

WS1000 pricing varied according to the number of desktops being protected, but a typical price would be £5.90 ($10) per user assuming 1,000 users, plus £2,750 ($5,200) for the appliance itself. That included live updates and 24/7 customer support from dedicated staff.