Talking tech since 2003

One of the best things about the Internet is the freedom users have to express themselves without any kind of censorship. Well, users in free countries, but that’s another story. While most countries aren’t actively thwarting their citizens from posting whatever they want, there are some hackers out there who are, using what are called distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to overload sites with so much traffic that they either slow down dramatically or fall offline completely. These are the kinds of attacks that Google’s newest invention, Project Shield, hopes to knock out.

google-infrastructure-project-shieldProject Shield is as its name states, a shield for websites to defend themselves against DDoS attacks. Project Shield uses Google’s infrastructure, as well as the company’s anti-DDoS technology and PageSpeed service to serve up websites that are far better protected than they might be elsewhere. Google is concerned about attacks on sites for human rights and humanitarian aid, where the goal is to help people or keep them informed, and sees Project Shield as a way to protect freedom of expression.

It’s definitely a step back toward that “don’t be evil” mantra the company was big on so many years ago, before it jumped into more competitive industries.

Google’s post about Project Shield might give you the impression that it’s a brand new initiative, but as it turns out, Google has actually been testing it out over the past year on a couple of different websites. A Farsi blog called Balatarin is one. Another website, Aymta, was set up to provide early warnings of scud missile launches to citizens in Syria. These are two sites based in a dangerous area of the world, and their agendas might not match up with those capable of orchestrating DDoS attacks. Under the protection of Project Shield, these sites can exist without the constant threat of being taken down.

Google is still testing Project Shield with “trusted testers” only. And you can’t sign up for the service just yet — it’s invite only. If you feel like your site could qualify as a test partner — that is, if you’re involved with media, elections or human rights — Google will allow you to request an invite. No guarantees that you’ll get in, though.

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