Distributed denial of service attacks are, in their own special way, a violent form of digital censorship. And Google wants to protect the world’s websites from them.
The company is taking the wraps off of Project Shield, a new distributed denial of service (DDoS) mitigation service that it hopes will “protect free expression online” by keeping websites themselves online.
A favored tactic among Anonymous and just about every other online bad guy, DDoS attacks are the Internet equivalent to packing a women’s shoe store with men asking for hats. Attackers flood a site with unwanted traffic, preventing people who need to access the site from doing so, and, eventually, forcing the site to shut down.
The tactic has been used to take down sites like Reddit, Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, WikiLeaks, and many, many others. If DDoS attacks can KO some of the world’s most popular websites, imagine what they can do to any the smaller ones.
To show you how bad it can get, here are all the the attacks happening right now.
Google says it’s already used Project Shield to protect a variety of what it calls “trusted testers,” including one Syrian site that gave people early-warnings of missile attacks.
One issue, however, should stand out to anyone who is even remotely concerned about censorship online. As Google points out, Project Shield works by “[enabling] websites to serve their content through Google to be better protected from DDoS attacks.” That’s a problem.
While going with Google may keep websites up during attacks, it also could mean putting some of the world’s most important tiny sites under the protection of a single global corporate entity. Google may have good intentions here, but that’s one reality that’s going to be tough to explain away.