Election organisers, civic groups and news outlets are being offered a free cyber security package by Google. To help against DDoS attacks and other hacking attempts, Google seems to be trying to redeem itself following criticism from the wider industry.
The likes of Google, Twitter and Facebook have been in the spotlight recently for not 'doing enough' to tackle extremism and fake news that many see as possible reasons for the US election results.
The free package called 'Protect your elections' will be offered to civic bodies and election monitoring organisations. These, along with news outlets and not-for-profits have seen an increasing number of attempts to bring them down- attempts of increasing complexity and sophistication.
Add these to the raging drama over Russia's alleged meddling in the US Presidential elections and the attacks on Dutch election monitoring websites last week on the eve of elections and you realise how timely the introduction of the 'Protect your elections' package is. The scheme has been tested before, under a different guise. Project Shield was offered to election news monitoring websites and also regular news organisations last year.
And they already have their work cut out for them. Jigsaw and Google came to the rescue of the KiesKompas and Stemwijzer websites in Holland last week when they were on the receiving end of a cyber attack.
KiesKompas and Stemwijzer are popular tools that help Dutch citizens make more informed decisions, especially in the context of elections. "The attack was not child’s play: it was very sophisticated because the attackers kept trying different avenues of attack again and again," said KiesKompas director Willem Blanken.
So severe were the attacks that it took Jigsaw until midday on Election day to reinstate both websites. So, this time, Jigsaw is offering more with 'Protect your elections' than just what was on offer with Project Shield.
To warn against potential attempts at stealing Google passwords, there is Password Alert as well as Two-Step Verification for added protection on both web and mobile accounts. These will be free services as well, as part of the cyber security package.
Google have broken up the free service for different streams. So while news websites, human rights websites and election monitoring and information websites are able to apply for DDoS protection, candidates and campaigns are eligible for the password protection tools.
All details about the packages here: g.co/protectyourelection
While the free package will come as great news for smaller organisations, they are unlikely to stop state-sponsored high-level attempts at taking down Twitter profiles and websites.