With midterm elections looming and primaries already underway in many states, anxiety has been building over the possibility of cyberattacks that could impact voting. Though officials and election security researchers alike are adamant that voters can trust the United States election system, they also acknowledge shortcomings of the current security setup. Little time remains to meaningfully improve election security before the midterms. But Google parent company Alphabet’s experimental incubator Jigsaw announced on Tuesday that it will start offering free protection from distributed denial of service attacks to US political campaigns. DDoS attacks overload a site or service with junk traffic so that legitimate users can’t access it. For the last two years, Jigsaw’s Project Shield has focused on fighting DDoS where it might be used for censorship around the world, offering free defenses to journalists, small publications, human rights groups, and election board sites. Now, those tremendous resources and that technical expertise will extend to political campaigns.
“We’ve been doing Shield for a little over two years now, and we keep seeing this correlation where you see spikes in attacks particularly at organizations that have really important information around things like elections or conflict in the world,” says George Conard, the Project Shield product manager at Jigsaw. “In working on protecting news and elections information we’ve realized that the third piece of that equation of what information voters need during an election is from the candidates and the campaigns themselves.”
Project Shield currently protects hundreds of websites in 80 countries, and memorably stepped in to take over defense of journalist Brian Krebs’ website “Krebs on Security” after it was hit by a massive DDoS attack in September 2016.