The company was founded in 1987 as McAfee Associates, named for its founder John McAfee. Whilst McAfee had a lot of market share in the US their sales in Europe was minimal. Network Associates was formed in 1997 as a merger of McAfee Associates and Network General which gave them a large installed based in Europe, a comprehensive R&D; lab in Aylesbury, UK and importantly access to the ‘Olympus’ Anti-Virus engine, one of the best and which still remains in the current product (5100 engine).
In the year 2004, a major restructuring occurred. In the spring, the company sold the Magic Solutions business to Remedy, a subsidiary of BMC Software. In the summer of 2004, the company sold the Sniffer Technologies business to Network General. Also, the company changed its name to McAfee to reflect its focus on security-related technologies.
Among other companies bought and sold by McAfee (formerly known as Network Associates) is Trusted Information Systems, which developed the Firewall Toolkit, which was the free software foundation for the commercial Gauntlet Firewall, which was later sold by McAfee to Secure Computing Corporation. Network Associates, as a result of brief ownership of TIS Labs/NAI Labs/Network Associates Laboratories/McAfee Research, was highly influential in the world of Open Source software, as that organization produced portions of the Linux, FreeBSD, and Darwin operating systems, developed portions of the BIND name server software, as well as SNMP version 3.
Leading up to the TIS Labs acquisition, McAfee had acquired Calgary, Canada-based FSA Corporation, which helped the company diversify its security offerings away from just client-based antivirus software by bringing on board its own network and desktop encryption technologies. The FSA team also oversaw the creation of a number of other technologies that were leading edge at the time, including firewall, file encryption, and public key infrastructure product lines. While those product lines had their own individual successes including PowerBroker written by Dean Huxley and Dan Freedman and now sold by Symark Software), the growth of antivirus always outpaced the growth of the other security product lines. It is fair to say that the company remains best known for antivirus and antispam product lines.
On April 5, 2006, McAfee bought out SiteAdvisor for a reputed $57m in competition with Symantec, a service that warns users if downloading software or filling out forms on a site may obtain malware or spam. In January 2006, McAfee agreed to pay a fine of US$50 million to the SEC for a practice known as channel stuffing that served to inflate their revenue to their investors.