It's easier than ever to spy on journalists, take down political websites, and otherwise use cyber attacks to help influence an election. Now Google and Jigsaw have introduced the Protect Your Election tool suite to help election-related organizations, politicians, and journalists defend themselves from those attacks.
Protect Your Election doesn't feature any new tools. Instead, the suite collected important safeguards like the Project Shield distributed-denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigator, instructions for setting up two-step verification on Google accounts, and the Password Alert extension for the Chrome browser that warns people about phishing attacks into one place. It's basically a starter kit for anyone who has to learn how to defend against digital threats.
That kit was assembled by Google and Jigsaw, an incubator within Google parent company Alphabet devoted to addressing "some of the toughest global security challenges facing the world today." Here's what the companies said about the reasoning behind Protect Your Election in their announcement:
Today, making information accessible also means protecting it, which is why Jigsaw and Google created Protect Your Election. By making it easier for organizations to defend themselves against these threats, journalists can publish freely and citizens can access the stories, the debates, and the policies when it’s most important to a nation — during a country’s elections — so that everyone can get the full story.
The companies also cite attacks on election information sites and journalists related to elections in Ecuador, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Mexico, and the countries as additional inspiration for the Protect Your Election security suite. They also said that attacks can take down news sites "for as little as €5" and that approximately "125,000 DDoS attacks happen every week and tens of millions of phishing attempts are recorded every few months."
Those figures are easy to believe. The proliferation of insecure devices via the Internet of Things (IoT) has made it easy to attack online infrastructure, phishers have gotten creative with their campaigns, and many people don't know how to defend themselves with even basic security measures like unique passwords. That's bad news for the average Joe; it can be devastating or deadly for something as important as an election or the free press.
Protect Your Election should be a step in the right direction. Basic safeguards could be enough to protect many people and organizations--attackers often favor easy targets--and the suite could be a good segue into other security tools. The biggest question is how many groups will take advantage of these simple protections before it's too late. Leading a horse to water--or in this case vital organizations to security tools--is easier than making it drink.
What do authoritarians like to say "If you have nothing to hide......"