Google has announced a new suite of tools for activists and non-profits at their Ideas conference in New York today, including tools for evading web censorship and oppressive regimes. The biggest focus has been on DDoS attacks, a kind of brute-force action that can easily take down a small site without leaving any clues as to the culprits. DDoS has been a persistent problem for small-scale activists on the web, but Google’s new Project Shield would aim to fix that, offering free DDoS mitigation services to sites serving “media, elections, and human rights related content.”
The tool is built on Google’s PageSpeed service, a frontend tool that offers developers faster loading times. Sites hosted by Project Shield would sit behind PageSpeed’s infrastructure, allowing Google to pool resources if any one site fell victim to an attack. Unless an attack were strong enough to bring down all the PageSpeed sites, it wouldn’t be able to bring down any of them. It’s a similar model to existing DDoS services like Cloudflare, although the more recently launched PageSpeed service is working from a smaller base of sites.
Alongside the anti-DDoS tools, Google also released a digital attack map that visualizes global DDoS attack, along with a project called uProxy designed to circumvent web censorship tools. Still in beta, uProxy lets users in web-censored countries browse the internet through by piggybacking on a foreign friend’s internet connection, a deanonymized version of onion-routing service Tor. Yasmine Green, the project lead for Google ideas, said the service was particularly needed in places like Iran, where web-throttling is common and Tor has been the subject of recent crackdowns.