Rolf Gierhard, Link11: “companies are lacking the know-how to defend themselves sufficiently”

When it comes to cyberattacks, we’re used to hearing about their dangers and severe obstructive effects. But cybercrime might not occupy the news agenda nearly enough, as many incidents don’t get reported at all.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are often overlooked when it comes to cybercrime, although they can result in as much – if not more – disruption to a company’s operations. Both companies and individuals alike suffer from such incidents regularly. And while most users can usually feel secure opting for protection against DDoS through Virtual Private Networks, things get a little more complicated when it comes to businesses with a strong digital presence.

Cybernews sat down with Rolf Gierhard, the Marketing Vice President at Link11, a leading Web DDoS Protection service provider., to discuss the dangers of a DDoS attack and the best mitigation and prevention practices.

How did the idea of Link11 come to life? What were your biggest milestones throughout the years?

Link11 was founded in 2005 as a hosting provider. Back in the day, neither an effective nor affordable solution for DDoS mitigation was available in the market. This set the change of our business model towards an own developed, AI-based security solution which got finally patented in 2019. Deloitte’s Fast-50 awards in 2012, 2013, 2017, and 2018 confirm our market growth, both domestic and foreign. Our status in pole position was also underscored by a market study carried out by Frost & Sullivan in early 2022. This research honored our company as the most precise in detecting and fastest in mitigating DDoS attacks among global leaders for cyber security.

It cannot be disputed that cyberattacks can quickly lead to financial straits, often insolvency, thus resulting in a severely tarnished reputation – especially for digital-driven businesses. Our many awards since our foundation, most recently as a three-time winner at the 2022 Cybersecurity Excellence Awards, bear out our commitment to innovation and continued strong growth.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What set of tools do you use to ensure a website runs fast and smoothly?

Generally, we use a cloud-based security platform, delivering services for cyber resilience, such as Web- and Infrastructure DDoS Protection, Bot-Management, Zero-Touch-WAF, Secure DNS, and Secure CDN. All of them are behind an Al-based and fully automated protection shield, which detects known vectors in real-time and previously unknown vectors in a matter of seconds. We filter traffic in our own worldwide Link11 network so that unintentional traffic is avoided and is unable to even reach the uplink in the first place. The always-on principle incurs no additional costs and ensures that the highest detection and defense rates are always guaranteed.

In your opinion, what are the usual motives of cybercriminals conducting DDoS attacks?

They are mainly financial in nature. Dangerously capable people are losing their inhibitions in large numbers. Nowadays, even medical institutions are becoming popular targets of cybercriminals, with mind-blowing sums of money being extorted. Distractions from the underlying attack are a typical feature. In the slipstream of massive DDoS attacks, hackers can easily infiltrate and attack network security through the back door, remaining undetected by virtue of the decoy smokescreen. It’s vital to recognize that DDoS attacks drastically alter traffic profiles, creating noise that masks, for example, a data theft – the eventual target of these attacks.

Did you notice any new threats emerge as a result of the pandemic?

The pandemic has enormously accelerated the process of digitization in the economy and in society. Our challenge now is presented by the fact that companies are lacking the know-how to defend themselves sufficiently against cyber attacks. Obviously, this leaves the organizations extremely vulnerable, with the increasing number and scope of attacks being mentioned by Botnet Meris in 2021. Perpetrators are skilled at finding multiple access points, using diverse means of attack.

Should every website owner implement DDoS protection or is it only necessary for certain websites?

Absolutely! There is no industry that is fully protected from cyberattacks.

What are some of the worst things that can happen if a website is not secured appropriately?

Once it has begun, it quickly spirals out of control. First, DDoS attacks are often reported very late – sometimes even not at all. Using the slipstream of massive DDoS attacks, hackers can penetrate companies or institutions unnoticed. Once they have gained access, they can strategically place malware before forcing the web servers to reboot.

Besides implementing DDoS protection, what other security measures are essential for companies nowadays?

There are various types of other measures for cyber resilience, as mentioned above, such as Bot Management, Zero Touch WAF, Secure DNS, or Secure CDN.

Bot Management not only identifies, sorts, and blocks bad bots automatically and in real-time, but also protects the customer experience by improving web store performance. In filtering out 20% of unwanted traffic on average and simultaneously equalizing web KPIs, it also lessens costs through a reduced server load.

Zero Touch WAF works on a whitelist-based filter without complicated manual rule sets and updates automatically. They run without interruption even in DDoS cases and allow a straightforward implementation.

Secure DNS serves as the additional DNS protection within the DDoS protection. It ensures the resolvability of the URL, thus guaranteeing the findability on the Internet.

Finally, Secure CDN, with which the global CDN is equipped with additional security features. These prevent misuse such as request smuggling while ensuring data sovereignty. Secure CDN has a behavior-based access list.

Talking about average users, what tools or practices should they adopt to protect themselves while browsing?

A step in the right direction is not to trust any unknown links coming with phishing and other spam emails, because this is how botnets are being created which are used later on in DDoS attacks. The same goes for using strong passwords, so hackers cannot misuse your ID and set up cloud workloads which again will be assets as part of big DDoS attacks.

And finally, what’s next for Link11?

Next up we intend to extend our internationalization procedure, mainly in the UK and USA – at the same time attaching importance to our activity in digital-driven sectors such as Hosting, Finance, E-Commerce, Industry 4.0, Utilities, and also the Public Sector.

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