As the middle of the elections is already looming in many countries and the primaries are already in progress, the fear of cyber-attacks, which could affect the elections, has intensified. Although officials and election security researchers alike insist that voters can trust the United States electoral system, they also acknowledge the shortcomings of the current security setup.
There is little time to improve the electoral security before the middle of the election. But the experimental incubator Jigsaw of Google's parent company Alphabet announced on Tuesday that it will provide free protection against distributed denial-of-service attacks on US political campaigns. DDoS attacks overload a site or service with junk traffic so that legitimate users can not access it. For the last two years, Jigsaw Project Shield has focused on the fight against DDoS, where it could be used for censorship around the world. It offers free defenses for journalists, small publications, human rights groups and electoral board pages. Now these enormous resources and technical expertise are being extended to political campaigns.
"We've been doing Shield for just over two years now, and we keep seeing this correlation, which is where attacks on organizations in particular are getting critical information about things like elections and conflicts in the world," says George Conard. Product Shield Product Manager at Jigsaw. "By working to protect information about news and elections, we've realized that the third part of this equation, which information voters need during a poll, comes from the candidates and the campaigns themselves."
Project Shield is currently protecting hundreds of sites in the 80s and has impressively taken up the defense of journalist Brian Krebs' "Cancer on Security" website after being hit by a massive DDoS attack in September 201
Project Shield provides DDoS defense by acting as a "reverse proxy." Instead of allowing traffic to flow directly into a site's web servers, it is first forwarded through an intermediary that scans everything for potentially harmful ones The proxy deletes all malicious requests and makes the setup especially useful for warding off DDoS attacks Even if a proxy is initially surprised and initially receives junk traffic from an attacker, it can be quickly modified to handle the bulk of the attack. Filter requests and prevent disruptions.
The Project Shield proxy is based on Google Cloud Platform provides caching through Google, which means that the tool stores parts of a site that do not change often and those components directly delivers users without even having to call the actual servers of a site, which adds bandwidth requirements reduced, so that a site can handle it more easily daily processing and traffic load.
"We always see this correlation when attacks occur especially in organizations that have really important information about things like elections or conflicts in the world."
George Conrad, Project Shield  Although the United States secret services and the Department of Homeland Security have unanimously said that after casting the Russian vote in the presidential race in 2016, no votes have been changed, news of electoral fraud continues to rise and raises concerns the future. Just last week, the Anchorage Daily News reported that a hacker had partially subverted Alaska's public voting website on Election Day 2016. This intrusion is in addition to other electoral information investigations in Alaska and 22 other states that confirmed the DHS last year. And while DDoS attacks, as defended by Project Shield, may not seem like the hack of election choice, that could change. Just last week, reports surfaced that during the Tennessee primary on May 1, a website with election results was lost to a DDoS attack in Knox County.
The Project Shield researchers have offered their service to electoral commissions around the world. I see the disruption that can cause DDoS attacks on electoral websites. For candidates, campaigns and political action committees, website downtime on election day may mean that people have less access to information about how and where to vote. And those who weigh up their options at the last minute could end up without the information they need about candidates. DDoS attacks could also be silenced during a campaigning season for unknown or grassroots candidates, who first try to reach a base and gain momentum.
"Our focus now is to ensure that we speak as much as possible to political organizations. The threat is out there," says Conard. "I would expect that we will see some spikes when different primaries emerge, so we help everyone at any time, but the faster people are protected, the better that is not something that has to wait until the last minute."  Any US political affiliate campaign can have their websites protected by Google Shield. Conrad also notes that this move fits Jigsaw's larger eligibility awareness initiatives, such as the suite of cybersecurity tools Jigsaw and Google, which is called Protect Your Election. And while DDoS attacks may or may not be central to electoral security, protection organizations are all the better, especially considering how many defense improvements across the country are not completed by the midterms in just six months.
More big WIRED stories