Microsoft demos vote verification tool, warns of ongoing foreign meddling

News by Bradley Barth

ElectionGuard assigns an encryption-enabled verification mechanism that distributes unique tracking codes to voters, which they can use to independently confirm that their votes were counted and not altered

Microsoft Corporation has begun publicly demonstrating its free and open-source secure electronic voting solution, ElectionGuard, warning that such innovations are necessary as adversarial nations continue to target the American people and US businesses.

In a blog post announcing the demo, Microsoft corporate vice president of customer security and trust Tom Burt said that in the past year alone, the company has notified close to 10,000 customers that the were the target of a nation-state-sponsored cyberattack. About 84 percent of these attacks targeted enterprise customers, while the remainder were aimed at consumers’ personal email accounts.

Iran, North Korea and Russia were the main sources of this malicious activity, Burt added.

Burt also said since its August 2018 debut, AccountGuard, Microsoft’s threat notification service for political campaigns, parties, and democracy-focused NGOs, has issued 781 notices to organisations, warning that they were targeted by nation-state attackers. Although the service has been extended to 26 countries, 95 percent of these attacks targeted US-based entities.

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard product will be available in software development kit form via GitHub later this summer. The solution assigns an encryption-enabled verification mechanism that distributes unique tracking codes to voters, which they can later enter into a website to independently confirm that their votes were counted and not altered.

Burt said that the demo, which is taking place at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, "will show how ElectionGuard can enable end-to-end verifiable elections for the first time while retaining the familiarity and certainty of paper ballots. The demo will provide voters with a printed record of their votes, which they can check and place into a physical ballot box, with verification through the web portal serving as a supplemental layer of security and verifiability."

Burt said that multiple election technology suppliers – collectively responsible for building and selling more than half of the voting systems in the US – are partnering with Microsoft to incorporate its technology into their systems. The company is also working with Columbia University’s Columbia World Projects initiative to pilot the technology in the 2020 elections.

This article was originally published on SC Media US.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Video and interviews