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Most IT Security Pros Disabling Security Functions In Favor Of Network Speed

New survey shows dilemma faced by organizations over performance trade-offs with network security products

More than 80 percent of organizations disable functions in their network security products because they slow the network, according to a newly released survey.

Crossbeam Systems surveyed 500 network security, IT, and C-level executives at companies worldwide and found that 90 percent say there's a trade-off between security and throughput. Around 67 percent say security is a higher priority than throughput performance when evaluating a security product.

It's the age-old problem of balancing security and productivity. "We found in the survey that they are having to make significant trade-offs between security and performance ... They are having to switch off functionality they paid for to meet their performance goals," says Peter Doggart, director of product marketing at Crossbeam.

Organizations are keeping their firewall, IDS, network access control, and IPSec functions turned on, but they are shutting off application control, user identification control, and some anti-malware features. In next-generation firewall products, for instance, 91 percent are using stateful firewall features; 73 percent, NAT; 71 percent, IPsec; and 65 percent, IDS/IPS.

Only 29 percent had deployed the anti-malware functions in these next-generation firewalls; 29 percent, user ID control; 33 percent, application control; 34 percent, antivirus; and 45 percent, Web filtering.

"Every platform has this problem. You turn on more security processing and performance goes down," Doggart says. "We need to makes sure customers are turning on this functionality to protect themselves."

But the reality of their service-level agreement requirements and misleading performance claims by network security vendors is making this impossible, according to Doggart.

More than 93 percent of the survey respondents don't trust the performance metrics that security hardware vendors provide on their data sheets, and 58 percent say they don't trust the performance metrics themselves. More than 60 percent say they had to purchase additional hardware to make up for unmet claims by security hardware vendors.

But it's not just the security vendors: The customers have to better vet the tools, according to the study. Almost half of those surveyed did not conduct any "real-world testing" of the products before rolling them out. "I think you're asking for trouble if you're not doing that. And [in the survey], of those that did do real-world testing, half never turned on IPS," Doggart notes. "Both sides are culpable."

A copy of the survey report is available for download here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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