Election data is vulnerable. Microsoft’s open source software aims to fix that

blockchain beyond bitcoin voters cast their ballots on election da
Voters cast their ballots on Election Day November 04, 2008. PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft is branching out in an intriguing direction with a pair of new software platforms designed specifically around improving the security of democratic elections. A new software kit will help developers create new, more secure, and more accessible electronic voting systems, while Microsoft 365 for Campaigns will enhance the operations of political parties and organizations on the campaign trail.

Election meddling and the lax security that makes it possible have been major topics of discussion in the years following the 2016 presidential election. Big ideas like Blockchain-backed voting offer one method of potentially securing elections, but Microsoft has been at the forefront of protective technological methods for some time already. In the 2018 mid-terms it reportedly helped prevent Russian meddling through nefarious phishing URLs. As we approach the campaign cycle for the next presidential elections, Microsoft is looking to leverage even greater protective measures.

“We believe technology can play a critical role in securing elections and that technology companies have a responsibility to support them,” Microsoft said in a statement. “Today Microsoft is announcing two new solutions aimed at addressing the security of voting systems around the world.”

The first of those two solutions is ElectionGuard. The free, open source software development kit (SDK) combines guidance for campaign and election organizers, as well as tools to help build better voting machines and systems. The software platform is publicly verifiable and will be freely available on GitHub starting this summer. Microsoft has already partnered with a number of technology providers to test out the SDK ahead of future elections.

The second is Microsoft 365 for Campaigns. Set to be available in June this year, it will provide new, high-end capabilities for Microsoft 365 Business users specifically designed with political parties and political campaigns in mind. The features will initially be offered to federal offices in the United States, but will be rolled out to a wider user base in the future.

Building on top of Microsoft’s existing AccountGuard threat-detection program, the new Microsoft 365 service will simplify security for political organizations and give them specialized instructions and setup wizards to make sure that they retain strict security on all of their important data and connected systems.

If you run a political or campaign party, you can learn more or sign up your interest in the service at the official campaign page.

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