Extending Free DDoS Protection for U.S. Political Organizations

Defending Democratic Institutions from DDoS Attacks

— George Conard, Product Manager, Jigsaw

IDENTIFYING THE CHALLENGE

Protecting information and democratic institutions requires strong technology to defend against cyber attacks. Today Jigsaw is excited to announce the release of Project Shield, a free service that uses Google technology to prevent DDoS attacks from censoring content and blocking free speech, to the U.S. political community.

Specifically, we’re offering Project Shield as a free service to U.S. political organizations registered with the appropriate electoral authorities, including candidates, campaigns, section 527 organizations, and political action committees. These organizations are critical parts of the democratic process, and they deserve the same defenses against cyber attacks that we’ve offered to news organizations around the world.

Digital attacks against democratic institutions have grown in frequency and intensity in the United States and globally. By simply overwhelming computer systems and servers with targeted flood traffic, DDoS attacks are being used to silence political speech and voters’ access to the information they need. Political parties, campaigns, and organizations are a growing target.

DDOS AS A THREAT TO POLITICS

Overall DDoS attacks are gaining traction and we’re seeing increases every quarter: 14% in Q4 2017 compared to Q3 2017, totaling 132 million DDoS attacks. The average number of DDoS attacks per targeted website increase to a high of 32 — an average of a new attack every three days (Akamai).

Specific to elections and the political process, , a Tennessee county website experienced a brief disruption in the display of election results early this month — on the night of the Tennessee congressional primary elections. Officials restored the site within an hour, but more state and local elections are experiencing disruptions. In 2016 alone, at least 21 states experienced a disruption to their election systems (Bank Info Security). Compared to the year prior, 2017 saw more DDoS attacks across the board with an estimated 33% of organizations being attacked, an increase from 17% in 2016 (Kaspersky Lab).

Project Shield was developed to help uphold two fundamental pillars of a democratic society — freedom of expression and access to information. In the face of growing DDoS attacks, there needs to be stronger collective action taken from key decision-makers within political groups. Any political organization, regardless of size or significance, is potentially at risk. It’s critical to provide support to those smaller, more vulnerable political groups that don’t have the financial or technical resources to do it themselves. Project Shield helps ensure that any eligible organization can be protected from a range of digital attacks — for free.

CONFRONTING THE PROBLEM

Project Shield was launched in 2016 to protect independent news and human rights organizations from DDoS attacks, but in the wake of major election breaches and targeted political cyber attacks, Project Shield can now be used to give political groups the same defense.

While Project Shield is integral to keeping websites protected against DDoS attacks, it is just one piece of a broader Jigsaw initiative, Protect Your Election. This suite of free tools helps political organizations defend against some of the most common forms of digital attack, including phishing, DDoS, and unauthorized account access. The nature of cyber attacks is changing, and technology needs to adapt. That’s why Jigsaw sends teams to states and countries that are hosting elections to help train important institutions and campaigns on how to use common digital security tools.

HOW PROJECT SHIELD WORKS

Built on Google’s infrastructure, Shield protects sites from DDoS attacks using a reverse proxy multi-layer defense system. That means that requests from end users first come through Project Shield, where our infrastructure can filter out malicious traffic. The legitimate requests are then passed through to the publisher’s website.

The tool is free and easy to set up. The first time setting up Shield is the only time. Just set it, forget it, and trust that your website is safe from DDoS attacks.

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

Protecting critical infrastructure and institutions from cyber attacks is more important than ever. With the U.S. midterm elections approaching, it’s crucial to make sure that private information is protected and public information is accessible.

That’s why we’re committed to working with U.S. political organizations to ensure that every organization, regardless of their size or resources, has the tools they need to stay safe online.

Over the next few months we’ll be working to expand these services to international political organizations as well. As the number of DDoS attacks continues to increase, so too must our efforts to provide free tools that make these types of attacks obsolete.

Learn more about (and apply for) Project Shield and Protect Your Election.

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