Google’s Project Shield is not exactly a new service from the company. It was technically launched several years ago as part of a trial programme. Now, Jigsaw (formerly known as Google Ideas) is opening the internet shielding programme to all independent news sources.
Project Shield is a programme that aims to protect vulnerable independent news sources from DDoS attacks. It exists due to the increasingly common practice of oppressive regimes using state sponsored DDoS campaigns to prevent these sites from disseminating news to the world. In this case, “independent” refers to just about any online news site that is not controlled by a government.
Oppressive governments, like those in the middle east, generally do not shut down news sites by blocking them. Instead, they carefully time DDoS attacks to coincide with crucial events like elections or protests. It is in this situations where Jigsaw believes that it will be able to do the most good.
The programme conducts a reverse proxy, and channels all incoming traffic through Google’s servers. Servers which are more than capable of handling the increased traffic that comes with a DDoS attack. Of course, this also allows Google to monitor incoming connections; which has raised some concerns about privacy.
Project Shield product manager C.J. Adams says that there is nothing to worry about, as the raw logs will only be stored for two weeks; after which it will be aggregated to learn more about DDoS attacks.
The ultimate goal for Project Shield is not profit; at least according to Jigsaw president Jared Cohen. Cohen told Wired magazine that preventing DDoS attacks is for the good of the internet. “We just don’t think that DDOS attacks should exist,” Cohen said. “We hope that Shield can do for DDOS attacks what Gmail did for spam.”
At the moment, the service is open to just about any independent news source. Jigsaw has promised that it will treat all sources equally; without favouring particular political ideas or opinions. Large news corporations are also welcome to submit an application to join Project Shield; although priority is given to smaller sites who are more vulnerable to these sorts of attacks.