Monday, April 22, 2019

Microsoft Helping to Secure Think Tanks, 2020 Elections

Microsoft has a new security service called Microsoft AccountGuard designed to help targeted customers, including think tanks, protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.

Here is more from Microsoft:
While Microsoft AccountGuard is new, it’s grounded in work we’ve done for years to protect democratic processes. This includes support for the Iowa caucuses in 2016, our role as a technology supplier to conventions for both major U.S. parties, and the work of our Washington, D.C.-based team to serve both political campaigns and U.S. government institutions. Based on these foundational experiences, we constructed Microsoft AccountGuard to account for the threats these organizations face, their unique resource constraints and the mix of technologies they often use.
Microsoft AccountGuard is open to all current candidates for federal, state and local office in the United States and their campaigns; the campaign organizations of all sitting members of Congress; national and state party committees; technology vendors who primarily serve campaigns and committees; and certain nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Microsoft AccountGuard is offered free of charge. Organizations must be using Office 365 to register.
Microsoft AccountGuard will provide notification about cyberthreats, including attacks by known nation-state actors, in a unified way across both email systems run by organizations and the personal accounts of these organizations’ leaders and staff who opt in. Eligible organizations can invite staff and other associates to enroll in Microsoft AccountGuard, and notification will only occur with the consent of the account owner.

Microsoft is also expanding AccountGuard in Europe, citing similar threats to democracy:
We all saw hacking and disinformation attacks on the French presidential election in 2017, and European leaders have recently warned that attacks will continue across Europe in 2019. At Microsoft, we’ve seen recent activity targeting democratic institutions in Europe as part of the work our Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) carry out every day to protect all of our customers.
These attacks are not limited to campaigns themselves but often extend to think tanks and non-profit organizations working on topics related to democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy and that are often in contact with government officials. For example, Microsoft has recently detected attacks targeting employees of the German Council on Foreign Relations, The Aspen Institutes in Europe and The German Marshall Fund.

The service launched in August 2018, in preparation for the 2018 US midterm elections.  AccountGuard is now helping secure "the 2020 US general elections and broader political and think tank community," says Microsoft.

Over the past several years, Think Tank Watch has documented cyber attacks and cyber intrusions on scores of think tanks in the US, Europe, and elsewhere.