Millions of people across the world rely on websites for receiving information, connecting with others, and sharing ideas. For small, independent media or human rights organizations, a website might be the only voice they have. These types of websites have increasingly become the target for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, preventing access to important information. DDoS attacks are a type of digital attack where a flood of unwanted traffic is maliciously used to make a target site unavailable to its users. The hosting server can’t differentiate ‘fake’ from genuine traffic, and as it is overcome by the increase in requests, it slows down, or is taken completely offline.
There are many different ways of creating a DDoS attack. One of the most common methods is by using a network of infected machines, known as a ‘Botnet’, created by spreading malicious software through emails, websites and social media. DDoS attacks can be surprisingly cheap and easy to initiate, and anyone, anywhere in the world can take almost any site down, no matter its size. Small, independent sites are particularly vulnerable because they don’t have the resources or infrastructure to defend or maintain their site.
Google Ideas has launched Project Shield — an initiative that uses Google’s own DDoS mitigation technology to provide protection for free expression online, by allowing other websites to serve their content through Google’s infrastructure.
The service is currently available for ‘trusted testers’ on an invite-only basis. People with sites serving media, elections and human rights related content are invited to apply for an invite.