Google Launches ‘Protect Your Election’ Kit Ahead of French Vote
As worries mount about cyberthreats to democracy, Google on Tuesday announced the launch of a free set of tools to help election websites, human rights groups, and other parties defend their computer systems from attacks.
The arrival of the toolkit, known as “Protect Your Election,” comes as France prepares to go to the polls next month, and a week after hackers took down one of the Netherlands’ leading election information sites during that country’s vote last week, according to Google, citing local media.
“Unfortunately, these types of attacks are becoming easier, cheaper, more better organized. With national elections approaching in France, we want to do our part to help,” said a blog post signed by staffers from Google France and from Jigsaw, the policy arm of Google’s (GOOGL) parent company, Alphabet.
The help Google is offering includes free protection from so-called “denial-of-service attacks,” or “DoS,” which flood sites with fake web traffic, causing them to buckle and go offline. Meanwhile, earlier such attacks have reportedly targeted investigative journalists and election monitors in places like Mexico, Ecuador, and Myanmar.
The Protect Your Election kit also offers extra layers of security in the form of a password protection tool and warnings about “phishing attempts“—a common scheme in which hackers use realistic-looking emails to try to make the recipient disclose personal information.
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According to Jigsaw, the process of signing up and implementing the tools are easy, and it doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge.
“Tech companies can design all the tools they want, but if people don’t know how to use them or they’re not easy, they don’t get used. They only work if they’re used by a lot of people, which creates network effects,” a Jigsaw spokesperson told Fortune in a phone interview.
In the case of the denial-of-service protection tool, Jigsaw is already providing such assistance to certain media sites through an initiative called Project Shield. The project’s most high-profile moment came in September, when Jigsaw defended security reporter Brian Krebs from one of the largest denial-of-service attacks in history.
In Krebs’ case, the perpetrators were allegedly cybercriminals annoyed by the journalist’s reporting of their activities. But denial-of-service-attacks and other forms of computer mischief are also used by government agents that want to interfere with elections or political activism.
If Google’s new initiative is a success, it could blunt the opportunity for cyber sabotage by drawing a wide range of political and public interest websites sites under its protective umbrella.