Using Sophos Connect VPN Client

Hey everyone,

I wanted to highlight one of the features listed in XG v17.5 - Sophos Connect. Sophos Connect is a new IPsec VPN client, included with XG v17.5. This is a preview release, where we decided to make the client available now, before we've made all of the XG improvements we are planning. The client, as it stands now, is a cross platform (Windows and Mac) IPsec client with a simple user interface, and a compelling set of features, that are finished, and available for use now. We didn't want to sit on that while waiting for the rest of our plans to be completed, so we decided to get that out to you sooner, even though the total admin user experience still needs a few significant improvements. 

In XG, you'll notice that the Cisco VPN tab under VPN, has been re-named Sophos Connect, and now offers a download for the new IPsec clients and admin utility. While you can create a split tunnel remote access policy on the IPsec tab, this doesn't yet offer a client IP range. So clients will connect and communicate over the tunnel, using whatever IP they are using locally, on the network they're in. While this might work in some cases, it runs into problems, as soon as your users are connected from a subnet that conflicts with a network being accessed over the tunnel. Having visited a hotel or two that gave out addresses in massive subnet ranges, the possibility of a conflict using that configuration is pretty significant. Meanwhile, the feature originally built to work with the now-antiquated Cisco IPsec VPN client solves this, and does offer a client IP range, but doesn't allow you to configure a split tunnel. Since the Cisco client is pretty outdated now, we decided to re-purpose that feature for now, and use it as the preferred method for configuring Sophos Connect. 

This makes for a more robust configuration, but the policy generated by that feature, only offers a full-tunnel. While that may be enough in some cases, most of you are looking for a VPN client that allows split tunneling. The tunnel will support split tunneling, but the UI doesn't yet offer that capability. We could slap in the feature, but we also want to move to a more modern method of pushing policy from the firewall when the tunnel connects, rather than leaving all of that up to the config file. So for now, we've taken a short-cut, (this is an early access release after all :) ) and provided a simple policy editor utility. This also let us expose some of the other great features Sophos Connect offers, like the ability to send Security Heartbeats over the tunnel, or an auto-connect when remote capability. 

Ultimately, we will resolve these limits in XG directly, but for the time being, Sophos Connect Admin will let you customize your policies then deploy them to your users.  It's a temporary solution needed to let you use these features, until we can add them into the firewall itself, and one of the big reasons this client will remain as a long term early access release, after 17.5 goes to GA. 

The client is free, and will remain free in the future, and is available to download from within XG today. The client is now available for early access, so we look forward to your testing and feedback. At the end of the XG EAP, the client code should also be considered at a GA quality at that time, but because of the limits I mentioned earlier, we'll continue to offer it as a longer term EAP release, until some time mid next year. 

The download is in the firewall now, under VPN > Sophos Connect client. Also, if you've just updated to v17.5, be sure the firewall has downloaded the client, under Backup & Firmware > Pattern updates, before you try to grab a copy. The package you'll get from the firewall will contain three programs. Sophos Connect for Windows, Sophos Connect for Mac, and Sophos Connect Admin, which is only available for windows. 

You can find instructions in installing and troubleshooting the client, here:

Looking forward to your feedback, and happy testing!

[edited by: FloSupport at 7:15 PM (GMT -7) on 28 Sep 2020]
  • Hey n33dfull,

    the client is downloaded from within webadmin, under VPN > Sophos Connect Client. The package is currently built for admins to grab and distribute to users, rather than being self-serve focused, as the SSL VPN currently is. The client can be rolled out via active directory, and a single policy may be installed across all of your users. You can also script policy installs using the sccli utility in the program files folder that Sophos Connect installs to. for example:

    %ProgramFiles(x86)%\Sophos\Connect\sccli.exe add -f [path to tgb or scx file] 

    the above command would add a new connection profile to the client, from whatever path the config file was located in. 

    Eventually we'll integrate the client into Sophos Central, and getting and installing the client and policies on machines will be as easy as managing Intercept X, but for now, we wanted to focus on making the client easier to bulk install in larger environments, since that's where most of the requests for Sophos Connect have come from so far. 


    That's probably more info than you asked for, but I hadn't shared some of that anywhere yet, so wanted to add that info to the community. 

  • AlanT said:

    Eventually we'll integrate the client into Sophos Central, and getting and installing the client and policies on machines will be as easy as managing Intercept X


    wow, I really like the direction this is going. 

  • Hi Alan,

    Just been playing with the Sophos Connect client as one of our clients has run into a difficulty with L2TP and I've noticed that it is not assigned to User Groups but is instead assigned to Users.

    Is this meant to be the case or in a future version (hopefully the next version) will it be against groups instead?

    If it is staying against Users this is highly inefficient, when an XG is first deployed into a Customers infrastructure there are no Users and we cannot import them until they have been seen by the XG either via STAS or an alternative logon method. Additionally, each time a new user is on boarded they will have to ask the user to log onto the User Portal or force an at location logon via Captive Portal or STAS.

    This is unsupportable in large user environments.

    Looking forward to your reply.


  • Hey Emile,

    The client is being released now, because it's at a point where we're happy with the features, and stability, but we only had opportunity to make small, superficial changes in the firewall. In v18, we'll make broader changes, which should remove the need for the scadmin utility, and a number of other significant changes, which should include both user and group support. 

  • In a Checkpoint Firewall, what I do, the first time a user logs in, I allow the "exchange key" rule in the firewall just the time the user logs the first time, and then disable the rule.  On the client side, installation is "click", "click", and then "click", punch my firewall IP address once, and then bingo.  I understand that this is not "practical" for large scale deployment.

    No fuss.  No muss.  So simple, a blond could do it with a welder mask.

    Again, with Sophos, it had to be more complicated, and confusing, than the rest of the industry.  Besides the fact we install the client, and that, at least temporary, we have to install a "client console - literally -", and then import the config from a mysterious place that if you are not familiar with Sophos since Mathusalem, you will will toast a day reading on the net to figure it out, there's is NOTHING intuitive here.

    Like some told before, GUI are like jokes, if you have to explain it, it's because it is no good at all.

    Paul Jr

  • In testing I noticed logging-in via the Connect client does not use the one time password. In fact it allows connection without it. Is this by design? We certainly require MFA on all external>internal connections, VPN especially.

  • Any plans for a "status" type bubble when mousing-over the Connect client systray icon and right-click functionality? Anything potentially user-facing needs to be friendly but streamlined.

  • Big_Buck said:
    Like some told before, GUI are like jokes, if you have to explain it, it's because it is no good at all.

    The thread is getting a bit longer now, so maybe it's a good time to remind everyone that this is early access to a set of features well before the admin experience is finished - much more so than we usually give. Even after v17.5 goes GA, Sophos Connect will remain in early access. The stability should be considered production safe at the end of the 17.5 beta, but again, the total user experience is not finished. We've gone to some lengths to improve some of the core problems we have with remote access tools today, namely around bulk deployment and management, and have been able to add some additional features to the client via the scadmin utility, but until v18 gives the rest of the firewall side improvements, and removes the need for the admin middleware, this will remain in early access. Until then, consider vpn management ux problems on the firewall, already on known issues list. 

  • Hey Ken,

    XG supports use of MFA, either using the freely included OATH-TOTP based OTP feature on xg itself, or by integrating with an external MFA solution using RADIUS. This usually requires appending the MFA token to the password, but using the scadmin tool, you can set a flag that offers users a separate field to enter the mfa token. If that's enabled, then users can enter their password and token separately, and we'll append the token to the password field automatically, when sending the authentication request. 

    The feature can't know whether you've configured the firewall to use MFA at all, so the field is offered, if you enable the option, whether your back end auth service expects a token or not. Not sure if that answers your question, but let me know if not. 

    For the hover status, yes there's more we want to add to the tray icon. For now though, the only status shown is the icon itself. It'll show a green light when connected, and a red light when a connection attempt fails. Also, we'll put notifications into the windows notification tray for any events. 

  • Appreciate the updates! I'll poke around the admin tool. I like the idea of having a separate prompt for the token versus appending the password. Less chance for users to get confused. It doesn't take much!