Project Shield – Google’s Anti-DDoS Service for Human Rights, Election Monitoring, and Media Organizations Websites

Every day, malicious attacks take down websites belonging to activists and independent media around the world. In many countries, these sites are often the only outlet for alternative information to that distributed by state authorities, so these attacks can effectively silence the voices speaking out on human rights, anti-corruption, and other critical issues. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is one common type of attack in which an adversary controls and directs a large number of computers to visit the targeted website all at the same time. The computers used in these attacks are usually infected with malware distributed through email and social media, and they are controlled remotely by the attacker often without the computer owner’s knowledge. When an attack is successful, the influx of requests to the targeted website will overwhelms it, either making it extremely slow or rendered it completely unavailable.

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In response to these challenges, Google Ideas developed Project Shield, an initiative specifically intended to defend the websites of independent media, human rights, and election monitoring organizations from DDoS attacks. This service does not necessarily protect websites from being attacked, but it reduces the likelihood that a DDoS attack will be successful. Since Project Shield leverages Google’s global infrastructure, it is protected by the same hardware and software that protect Google’s commercial services, making attacks on the protected websites incredibly difficult. Once a website is protected by the service, all of its web traffic passes through Google’s servers, which filter the network traffic to assure the requests are legitimate and thereby reducing the number of requests the website ultimately receives.

In August 2015, Google Ideas rolled out a new, improved version of Project Shield with an upgraded user interface and an easier migration process. Project Shield is available by invite only to select organizations supporting human rights, election monitoring, and independent media. Interested parties can apply for an invitation on the Project Shield website.

To understand how distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks work and to see a map of daily attacks, visit http://www.digitalattackmap.com/