Project Shield: Another Google Security Project

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Google seems to go for diversity and serendipity when it comes to things it works on.  I say serendipity because they sometimes come up with ideas from working on something else.  That’s true for Project Shield.  Google had been working on its PageSpeed Service as part of Google Ideas in 2013.  That’s now defunct, although Google is now working on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).  Project Shield is a side benefit of PageSpeed.  The Project part of the name apparently indicating that it’s still in an unfinished, beta state, akin to Project Fi.  And it’s now an active part of Google’s newer idea factory, Jigsaw.

So, what is Project Shield?  It’s basically a system for news media sites, election results sites, and human rights sites to prevent DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks on those types of sites.  Hackers can hack into a variety of devices, especially smartphones and computers, usually via software downloaded from questionable sites.  That can be either knowingly (via app downloads), the user thinking he is getting a paid app for free, or by phishing schemes that lure people to follow a link to a site where malware is secretly installed in the background.  The software then has the devices all ping or load a specific site.  It doesn’t sound too bad, right?

Think of enough devices pinging and loading a site in rapid fire succession.  And that rapid fire can be as much as a cumulative 100 Gbps to 500 Gbps (Gigabits per second).  What happens, then, is that site is effectively unreachable.  If someone disagrees with a human rights site’s stance, doesn’t want people to easily get election results, or doesn’t want some of the news getting out, a DDoS attack is a way to keep the online public from getting to that site.  And that’s where Project Shield comes in.

The idea of Project Shield is to prevent those DDoS attacks.  One of Google’s own sites describes it this way:

Project Shield uses technology called a reverse proxy, which allows a webmaster to serve their site through Google infrastructure for free, providing a “shield” against would-be attackers.”  And they continue: “So far we’ve protected hundreds of news organizations and human rights websites that have faced attacks aimed at censoring free expression. By protecting these sites, we’ve helped to keep vital information online during elections, major crises and conflicts.

Google says Project Shield is totally free, will not interfere with targeted advertising or adverting analysis, and Google will not be adding advertising for using the service.  It can use a site’s SSL connection, if that’s enabled — no loss of security.  They do use some of the site’s metadata, as described on the project homepage:

Project Shield only uses the data we obtain (such as logs from the Project Shield servers) for DDoS mitigation and caching and to improve the Project Shield service. See this Help Center article for more details.

The Project Shield homepage includes information about the service plus a form to sign up.  If it seems like something your site might need, head on over there and explore further.


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