Google's waving its pro-internet freedom flag again, launching a suite of anti-hacker software intended to help human rights and elections-related websites in vulnerable regions. It's a nice thought, even if there's a catch.

The new program is called Project Shield (yes, like the TV show and the game controller) and aims to protect websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Project Shield combines Google's own DDoS mitigation technologies and Page Speed Service, a tool built for developers to make their webpages load faster. Traffic to participating sites will be piped through Google's infrastructure, so unless the attack is big enough to bring down all sites using the Page Speed Service, it won't bring down websites with Project Shield. Sites have to apply to participate, for now.

While Google's infrastructure is undoubtedly sturdy, no site is completely safe from DDoS attacks. Hackers are going to hack, and based on precedent, they're always getting better at it. So Google warns prospective participants accordingly. The company also mentions that they may charge for Project Shield, which is free right now. Google did say it was "hoping to offer the service to charities and non-profits at a reduced fee or at no cost in the future." Well, that's something, at least.

Time will tell whether Project Shield is a legitimate public service or a regular old marketing effort. For now, at least it makes hackers' jobs a little harder. Because while DDoS attacks aren't the worst thing in the world, they are annoying and cause problems. So get your free problem-solving while it lasts. [Google]