Enterprise network security takes backseat to speed: McAfee

New McAfee research claims that a worrying number of organizations are turning off advanced firewall features in order to avoid slowing down networks.


Despite the rising number of high-profile cyberattacks against corporations, new research suggests the enterprise is placing network speed above safety.

On Wednesday, McAfee, part of Intel Security, released a new report (.PDF) titled 'Network Performance and Security.' The research suggests that enterprises are finding balance between optimal network performance and security difficult to achieve, and more often than not, advanced firewall features are disabled in order to avoid significant network performance degradation.

The report surveyed 504 IT professionals, with 60 percent stating the design of their company's network was driven by security. However, this does not mean every security feature is rigorously enforced -- as over 30 percent of respondents admitted their company required firewall features to be disabled and certain security features removed to increase network performance.

Pat Calhoun, general manager of Network Security at McAfee, said:

"It is unfortunate that turning off important firewall features because of network performance concerns has started to become common practice. At McAfee we believe this is unacceptable. Companies simply should not have to make that kind of trade-off."

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According to the report, the most common features to be turned off include deep packet inspection (DPI), anti-spam, anti-virus, and VPN access. The most frequently disabled security feature is DPI, which is a form of computer network packet that detects malicious activity within regular network traffic. DPI allows for offensive traffic to be blocked before it reaches a network, and is often included in today's modern firewall setups. However, it is also a demanding piece of software -- and therefore may be the first casualty in disabled security features.

Research firm Miercom2 says that DPI can cause up to a 40 percent degradation of throughput in today's enterprise systems.

Ray Maurer, Chief Technology Officer at Perket Technologies commented:

"When I hear about people turning off security they paid for because of performance decreases -- this upsets me so much. I get a bad feeling knowing I had to remove security in the name of performance. I have a hard time sleeping because it is not a matter of if a network will be compromised, but when."

A number of companies have found themselves thrust into the spotlight after security breaches. US retailer Target saw net expenses of $110 million due to a cyberattack which resulted in the loss of sensitive customer data, JPMorgan's networks were infiltrated resulting in the exposure of personal information contained in 83 million accounts , and Staples is currently investigating a possible data breach.

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