Google last week announced that it would expand its Project Shield program to offer protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) to news and human rights websites for free.
Project Shield uses Google's security infrastructure to detect and filter DDoS attacks, which flood websites with Internet traffic or service requests in order to impair their functioning or take them down altogether.
With the new offer, tens of thousands of news sites will have access to Google’s Project Shield. And because Project Shield is free, even the smallest independent news organizations will be able to continue their important work without the fear of being shut down.
Google's action appears to be well-timed, as DDoS attacks have become larger and more frequent. While two years ago, attacks were of the size of 300 Gb/sec they have become 500 Gb/sec now, which is more than what an average website can handle.
Defending against DDoS attacks requires two things: massive scale and broad visibility over the entire Internet; Google currently has more of both attributes than anyone on the Web.
The solution Google offers combines traffic filtering and the ability to present cached content while a website is dealing with more traffic that it can handle. While this can help against certain attack vectors, there are limitations even to Project Shield as it does not fully address the different DDoS threats that websites are facing today.
Project Shield cannot mitigate network layer attacks, especially direct-to-IP attacks that target specific IP addresses and elements of a network's infrastructure. There is also the question of attack duration, as many DDoS assaults can be easily sustained for days, weeks or even months at a time. For attacks like these, serving stale cached content is a hard compromise, perhaps even more so for a news organization.