Even though the technology may be impressive, regular Democracy Chronicles readers might be skeptical of new technologies creeping into election systems. The latest news coming on this front is from Microsoft who made the following announcement through a post on the Microsoft website by their Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust, Tom Burt:
Starting today at the Aspen Security Forum we’re demonstrating the first voting system running Microsoft Election Guard as an example of how Election Guard can enable a new era of secure, verifiable voting. The demo shows how it’s also possible to make voting more accessible for people with disabilities and more affordable for local governments while increasing security. Finding new ways to ensure that voters can trust the election process has never been more important. The world’s democracies remain under attack as new data we are sharing today makes clear. Election Guard and the range of offerings from Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, as well as tools from others in the technology industry and academia are needed more than ever to help defend democracy.
Let’s start with a quick look at the newest data available to us. In the past year, Microsoft has notified nearly 10,000 customers they’ve been targeted or compromised by nation-state attacks. About 84% of these attacks targeted our enterprise customers, and about 16% targeted consumer personal email accounts. While many of these attacks are unrelated to the democratic process, this data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics or achieve other objectives.
The majority of nation-state activity in this period originated from actors in three countries – Iran, North Korea and Russia. We have seen extensive activity from the actors we call Holmium and Mercury operating from Iran, Thallium operating from North Korea, and two actors operating from Russia we call Yttrium and Strontium. This data has been compiled by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center which works every day to track these global threats. We build this intelligence into our security products to protect customers and use it in support of our efforts to disrupt threat actor activities through direct legal action or in collaboration with law enforcement. But let’s be clear – cyberattacks continue to be a significant tool and weapon wielded in cyberspace. In some instances, those attacks appear to be related to ongoing efforts to attack the democratic process.