Project Shield: Google opens DDoS bomb shelter for all news publishers

Google opens up Project Shield as a free service to protect websites from traffic attacks aimed at censoring news.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The Project Shield service relies on a reverse proxy hosted on Google's Cloud Platform to take the sting out of distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Image: iStock

Google is inviting all the world's publishers to fend off junk traffic onslaughts with Project Shield, a service designed to frustrate distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the web.

Certain publishers in Europe might fear Google but those same publishers could soon be seeking cover provided by the search giant if they come under a DDoS attack, which these days can reach 500Gbps.

Even the BBC could not withstand a recent DDoS attack aimed at its website.

Project Shield was launched by Google Ideas in 2013 on Google's now-shuttered website acceleration service, PageSpeed Service, as a way of protecting publishers and human rights groups from being knocked offline by malicious traffic.

Alphabet's executive chairman Eric Schmidt announced last week that Project Shield has moved to the newly-created Jigsaw unit, which replaced Google Idea's thinktank role and took on an additional tech incubator function.

The unit will be "investing in and building technology to expand access to information for the world's most vulnerable populations and to defend against the world's most challenging security threats".

One of Jigsaw's first initiatives, announced on Wednesday, is bringing Project Shield out of beta and making it available as a free service to any news publisher across the world.

The idea is to protect the world's news sites from "DDoS as a form of censorship", which Jigsaw president and Alphabet executive chairman Jared Cohen says goes against Google's values.

"These attacks threaten free expression and access to information -- two of Google's core values," Cohen wrote.

"With this expansion, tens of thousands of news sites will have access to Project Shield. And because Project Shield is free, even the smallest independent news organizations will be able to continue their important work without the fear of being shut down," he added.

The service relies on a reverse proxy hosted on Google's Cloud Platform, allowing those websites to point their traffic at Google's infrastructure. It will filter malicious traffic and "absorb" traffic after having cached the content on its servers.

Google will accept applications from online news publishers, human-rights websites, and election-monitoring websites. It will also manually review applications to exclude sites with spam and marketing content.

Some locations that could benefit greatly from the service won't be able to rely on Project Shield due to international sanctions. These include websites hosted in Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

According to Google, it will not be placing ads on websites it protects and says using the service won't impact the ability for websites to target advertising or analyse advertising data.

Additionally, for the few news sites in the world that actually have enabled SSL, Project Shield does support this security feature.

However, the service will collect a website's traffic metadata and web-traffic logs for operational reasons. But Google says Project Shield does not collect the data to improve search results.

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