Knight Center
Knight Center


Project Shield seeks to protect media and freedom of expression from cyber attacks in Latin America

Logo for Project Shield

A new tool is available to Latin American newsrooms looking for protection against cyber attacks.

Project Shield, which has been available since February, was presented on Oct. 13 during the 72nd IAPA General Assembly in Mexico City in the hopes of promoting its use among Latin American news organizations.

Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas, developed Project Shield using Google technology. The aim is to protect news sites and freedom of expression organizations against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

"We are thrilled to announce this new partnership with IAPA as a way to protect news organizations throughout Latin America," said George Conard, product manager at Jigsaw who leads Project Shield, according to an organization press release. "Our goal is to end repressive online censorship, and defending publishers against DDoS attacks is a crucial step toward eliminating DDoS as a threat to freedom of expression."

A DDoS attack is an attempt to put a website out of service by creating large amounts of web traffic from various sources. Project Shield is designed to protect websites in two ways:

  1. A reverse proxy, a project that helps to filter incoming traffic, allowing the secure and blocking the harmful in order to keep sites running
  2. The project allows sites to save cached content and present it to visitors, this allows the program to “absorb” and reduce traffic coming into the site

The project is offered for free to individual journalists as well as news, human rights and election-monitoring organizations. These organizations are more likely to receive cyber attacks and often lack the ability to defend against them, according to Project Shield’s website.

George Conard, product manager at Jigsaw, announces Project Shield at the Inter American Press Association General Assembly on Oct. 13, 2016. (Knight Center)

“News organizations are particularly vulnerable to these types of attacks. In fact, DDoS attacks have become a common tool for censoring news organizations,” Project Shield noted in a press release. The team added that around 50 percent of news sites have been attacks at least once, and that those have an 80 percent probability of being attacked again, according to a Neustar report.

According to a June 2015 report from the Journalism in the Americas blog, legislation in Latin America against cyber attacks is behind, resulting in censorship against journalists. As a result of DDoS attacks, sites in the region are often taken offline for several hours. Additionally, there are limited statistics on cyber attacks in the region, which further complicates the threat they pose.

“The attacks almost always occur as a result of some publication, that is to say they are more reactive than proactive, “ Robert Guerra, an expert in cyber security and Internet freedom, previously told the Knight Center about cyber attacks in the Latin American context. “The freedom of the press is vulnerable not only when a journalist is killed or a broadcaster is exploited.”

Project Shield is now accepting applications from interested organizations from across Latin America.


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