October 22, 2013
Google Shield To Protect Free Speech From DDoS Attacks
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Further supporting their ideals of openness and free expression, Google has launched a service to protect web from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which aim to bring down politically-minded websites. Project Shield acts as a protective barrier around these websites to prevent the rapid pinging of a DDoS attack.
The online defense is a product from the Google Ideas team, a department of the search giant, which aims to protect those five billion people in the world who have yet to make it online. This new project is also joined by the Digital Attack Map, an animated and interactive map which highlights some of the better understood attacks between the US and China.
“+Google Ideas just announced Project Shield, an initiative that enables people to use Google’s technology to better protect websites that might otherwise have been taken offline by 'distributed denial of service' (DDoS) attacks,” reads a Google+ blog post explaining the new service.
“We’re currently inviting webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to apply to join our next round of trusted testers.”
DDoS attacks are often carried out by hackers with control over a large botnet of connected computers. Viruses and trojans which infect PCs and Android mobile devices enlist these machines into the botnet, which is then used to bring websites down. In a DDoS attack, the operator uses the computers in the botnet to flood a targeted website with requests. Under normal operations, a website can handle the traffic, but when under a DDoS offensive, the website essentially becomes confused and fails under the weight of the sheer number of requests delivered by the botnet.
According to Google, Project Shield is already protecting some websites from these kinds of attacks. Over the past year websites like aymta.com, Balatarin.com, and the Kenyan election monitoring service have resisted such attacks from users or groups who wanted to silence their message and disrupt their activity. Google is now expanding Project Shield to web operators with sites serving elections, human rights issues or the right to free expression.
Google has also released a new map which visualizes DDoS attacks around the world. The Digital Attack Map sources its data from the Arbor Networks ATLAS global threat intelligence system which gets its data from more than 270 ISPs. Though Google claims the information seen in the Attack Map might be the most complete picture of global attacks, it’s certainly not conclusive. Attackers could be operating under ISPs which do not participate, and Google admits some of the data which suggests an attack might actually be regular traffic.
Google says the Digital Attack Map is not so much a detailed and precise view of where the attacks are coming from and where they’re heading; rather it is simply meant as a broad picture to show where attacks often originate.
According to the new map, the United States is both the origin and victim of most attacks, including those which remain inside the border. China is number two with some attacks remaining inside their borders and the rest going out to the US, Great Britain, France, Pakistan and others. Just as countless others have reported over the last year, the majority of outward attacks from China are directed towards the US, according to as Google’s new map confirms.