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Jigsaw, the technology incubator launched originally as Google Ideas in 2019 and which is now running as an Alphabet subsidiary, has announced that it’s expanding its DDoS-thwarting Project Shield to political organizations in Europe.

By way of a brief recap, Google first lifted the lid on Project Shield back in 2013, and it initially tested the DDoS mitigation service with a clutch of hand-picked organizations. In early 2016, it opened to all news outlets and human rights organizations, while it expanded to U.S. political organizations last year.

Project Shield actually constitutes part of a broader Google-powered initiative operated by Jigsaw called Protect Your Election, which is basically a suite of tools aimed at helping political organizations defend themselves against all manner of digital attacks, including phishing and unauthorized account access.

“The nature of cyber attacks is changing, and technology needs to constantly adapt,” explained Scott Carpenter, director of policy and international engagement at Jigsaw, in a blog post. “That’s why Jigsaw sends teams to countries hosting elections to help train important institutions and campaigns on how to use common digital security tools.”

The DDoS problem

DDoS — or distributed denial-of-service, as its full name goes — is commonly used to attack a website by flooding it with traffic from myriad different sources and thus knocking it offline. The tactic can be used for a number of reasons, such as to threaten or intimate a company into complying with demands, or to censor online content. Jigsaw pitches Project Shield as a way to leverage Google’s own security infrastructure to prevent such attacks on websites that are more susceptible to them.

A number of high-profile DDoS attacks have taken place across Europe in recent years, designed to interfere with both political and legal processes. In 2017, Spain’s Constitutional Court website was forced offline by cyberactivists just as Spain prepared to take control of the Catalonia region over its push for independence.

Many of the major technology firms have faced growing scrutiny, particularly in Europe, over the role they play in facilitating interference in democratic processes such as elections. Earlier today, Facebook announced new ad transparency rules timed to coincide with the European elections in May, while Google too previously announced plans to vet political advertisers for the upcoming European elections. Elsewhere, Microsoft last year expanded its AccountGuard service to the U.K. to safeguard elections from cyberthreats.

Project Shield is available by application only, though it is free to use if the applicant is successful and deemed to be at risk from DDoS attacks. It’s also worth noting that to use Project Shield, organizations will have to switch their domain DNS so that all their traffic goes through Google’s system first.

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