Jigsaw, an incubator run by Google parent Alphabet, this week announced the availability of Project Shield – which offers free distributed denial of service (DDoS) protections – for the U.S. political community.
Opened in February 2016 to independent, under-resourced news sites, Project Shield helps protect free speech by fending off crippling DDoS assaults. The service, which leverages Google technology, was launched only weeks after Google Ideas became Jigsaw.
In March last year, Google and Jigsaw announced a partnership to offer Protect Your Election, tools that would help news organizations, human rights groups, and election monitoring sites fend off not only DDoS assaults, but also phishing and account takeover attempts.
This week, Jigsaw revealed that Project Shield is now available for free to “U.S. political organizations registered with the appropriate electoral authorities, including candidates, campaigns, section 527 organizations, and political action committees.”
“These organizations are critical parts of the democratic process, and they deserve the same defenses against cyber-attacks that we’ve offered to news organizations around the world,” George Conard, Product Manager, Jigsaw, says.
The free service is offered in response to an increase in the frequency and intensity of digital attacks against democratic institutions in the United States and globally. Threat actors flood computer systems and servers with traffic to silence political speech and prevent voters from accessing the information they need.
Not only is the number of DDoS attacks increasing overall, but so does the number of attacks the same target faces, recent reports have revealed. The cost of launching a DDoS attack has decreased as well: one can hire a DDoS-launching service for only $10 per hour.
DDoS attacks increasingly target political parties, campaigns, and organizations, Conard notes. The most recent example is a Tennessee county website displaying election results being disrupted earlier this month for an hour on the night of the Tennessee congressional primary elections.
“Any political organization, regardless of size or significance, is potentially at risk. It’s critical to provide support to those smaller, more vulnerable political groups that don’t have the financial or technical resources to do it themselves. Project Shield helps ensure that any eligible organization can be protected from a range of digital attacks — for free,” Conard says.
While Project Shield can protect websites against DDoS attacks, the Protect Your Election initiative can help political organizations defend against other attacks as well. The goal remains the same as when Project Shield was launched: to protect freedom of expression and access to information.
Project Shield leverages Google’s infrastructure to protect from DDoS attacks using “a reverse proxy multi-layer defense system.” Basically, requests from end users first come through the Shield, which filters malicious traffic and only allows legitimate requests to pass through.
Not only is the tool free, but it is also easy to set up and doesn’t require maintenance, to keep a website safe from DDoS attacks, Conard says.
“Protecting critical infrastructure and institutions from cyber-attacks is more important than ever. With the U.S. midterm elections approaching, it’s crucial to make sure that private information is protected and public information is accessible,” he points out.
Jigsaw is committed to working with U.S. political organizations of all sizes to ensure that every one of them, regardless of their resources, can stay safe online. In the coming months, the protections will be expanded to international political organizations as well.
Related: You Can DDoS an Organization for Just $10 per Hour: Cybercrime Report
Related: Google Launches Free “Protect Your Election” Service