Microsoft Rolls Out "Election Defense Technologies"

Microsoft is piloting an enhanced cybersecurity program aimed at providing enhanced protection for political campaigns and election authorities. Launched at the end of July and first noted by Bleeping Computer, the "AccountGuard" program is being rolled out ahead of the 2018 US midterm elections.

According to the pilot's website, AccountGuard "provides additional security and threat monitoring for Microsoft accounts belonging to participating US campaigns, political committees, campaign tech vendors, and their staff, who are likely to be at a higher risk in the lead up to elections." -Bleeping Computer

Political and election related entities can sign up for the "Election Defense Technologies," and is offered by invitation only on what is described as a "non-partisan basis." Eligible groups include: 

  • US-based political campaigns
  • US-based political committees
  • Select campaign technology vendors
  • Select individuals may also participate, if invited by eligible campaigns and affiliated organizations

Upon enrollment, users will receive notifications when Microsoft detects a "cyber incident" targeting an account - while the Redmond, WA tech giant already monitors Microsoft accounts for threats such as malware, phishing emails and suspicious logins. 

With AccountGuard, users will also receive "reactive remediation support through standard channel," and "prescriptive best-practice security guidance" to proactively prevent incidents, Bleeping reports. 

The new feature is part of Microsoft's "Defending Democracy Program," an initiative launched in April to safeguard the electoral process. The campaign aims to "Protect campaigns from hacking through increased cyber resilience measures, enhanced account monitoring and incident response capabilities," according to a Microsoft blog post.

Threats to our democratic processes from cyber-enabled interference have become a critical concern. We’ve seen attempts by nation-states to target and exploit key building blocks of our democratic system including voting systems and the technology infrastructure of political campaigns. We have also endured the manipulation of social media platforms to sow misinformation.

Addressing this threat to democracy will require significant new efforts by governments, technology companies – both individually and in partnership – as well as academia and civil society.

An important early focus of our new effort will be the November 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. for which we are piloting new cross-industry protections, as well as the U.S. presidential elections in 2020. The scope of our new program is global, however, as we scale our efforts to engage around the world with other democratic countries in protecting their institutions and processes in the years to come. -Microsoft

Microsoft hasn't made a formal announcement and the service is not yet indexed by any search engine.