Google Project Shield to Protect Sensitive Sites from DDoS Attacks

Google and Arbor Networks are collaborating on a project that shows exactly how large and damaging some DDoS attacks are, and who’s attacking who at any given moment.

DDoS attacks have been a problem for nearly as long as the Internet has been a thing, but they’re difficult to visualize and understand on a practical level. A whole bunch of traffic is going to a Web site. So what? Now, Google and Arbor Networks are collaborating on a project that shows exactly how large and damaging some of these attacks are, and who’s attacking who at any given moment.

The Digital Attack Map, launched Monday at the Google Ideas Summit, gives users a clear picture of ongoing DDoS attacks on a world map, and also enables them to dig into the details of a given attack. Users can see the origin country and destination of each attack, the maximum volume of traffic, which ports are being attacked, how long the attack has been going on and what kind of attack it is. The data is coming from Arbor’s ATLAS monitoring system, and is updated every day.

“What our ATLAS data highlights is just how commonplace DDoS attacks have become – both in terms of frequency but also in terms of how many Internet users are impacted by DDoS. It’s not just a problem for large, global organizations and service providers, but anyone with an Internet connection can be caught in the crossfire of an attack. The ‘collateral damage’ of an attack against a large organization or service provider are the people that rely on those networks every single day,” Dan Holden of Arbor said.

The map is one piece of a larger effort from Google to help sensitive sites protect against and understand DDoS attacks. In addition to the Digital Attack Map, Google on Monday launched Project Shield to give targeted sites the ability to defend against DDoS attacks by running their sites through Google’s infrastructure. The service, which uses Google’s PageSpeed Service, is meant for news, election and human rights sites, and is by invitation only at the moment.

Human rights and media sites have become major targets for DDoS attacks in recent years, especially in countries that have been experiencing upheaval, revolution and political change. Groups and media sites in Syria, Egypt, the United States and other countries have been targeted regularly by attackers seeking to knock them offline for a short period. Typically, DDoS attacks last a matter of hours or perhaps days, but some of the attacks shown on the Digital Attack Map have been running for months. One of the attacks on the map, with an unknown source and destinations, has been ongoing since March, for example. Some sites, particularly smaller, grass-roots level political or media sites, don’t have the resources or expertise to defend against these attacks. So Google is offering them the chance to run their sites through the company’s massive, well-defended network infrastructure.

“Project Shield is an initiative to expand Google’s own Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation capabilities to protect free expression online. The service currently combines Google’s DDoS mitigation technologies and Page Speed Service to allow websites to serve their content through Google’s own infrastructure for DDoS mitigation,” the company said.


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