Microsoft and Google expand security tools to political parties in Canada, Europe

By:  Catalyn Cimpanu

Google and Microsoft have announced the expansion of security tools to political parties and organizations involved in upcoming elections that are to be held across the European Union and in Canada, respectively.

Both services will be made available for free to both political parties as well as other organizations involved with political campaigns and the electoral process, the two tech giants said.

Google expands Project Shield to the EU

Google’s announcement came from Jigsaw, a technology incubator created by the search giant in 2016, and currently operated as a separate subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.

At the end of last month, Jigsaw announced that European political campaigns and candidates would be granted free access to Project Shield, a DDoS protection service.

Access to this service, originally launched in 2016, had been previously available only to human rights groups and news organizations.

Now, Jigsaw says that any European political organization involved in the upcoming 2019 European Parliament election –scheduled for the end of May– can sign up and benefit from free DDoS protection.

DDoS attacks targeting political entities might sound like a waste of time, but they can be used to silence the voices of political opponents, or even mask more serious hacks.

For example, in October of 2017, the Czech Republic parliamentary elections were targeted by a DDoS attack, just as hackers were breaching the country’s statistical office as Czech officials were counting the votes.

Also in 2017, the website of Spain’s Constitutional Court was, too, forced offline by a DDoS attack carried out by hacktivists, after Catalonia’s local authorities organized an independence referendum and the court was preparing to announce its illegitimacy.

Having top-grade DDoS protection from Google will help political campaigns and electoral agencies keep their sites running and making their voice heard, while also keeping IT personnel free and alert to other attacks.

Microsoft expands AccountGuard to Canada

However, Google wasn’t the only one to step up its free offerings to political and electoral entities. Not to be outdone, Microsoft also announced something similar last week.

In a LinkedIn post, Kevin Peesker, President at Microsoft Canada, announced that Microsoft’s AccountGuard service would now also be available in Canada, after previously being available only in the US, the UK, and Ireland.

Microsoft has started rolling out AccountGuard in Canada ahead of the country’s 43rd Canadian federal election, scheduled for October 2019, when Canadians will be choosing a new Parliament.

“Microsoft AccountGuard in Canada will be available to current candidates for federal or provincial office and their campaigns; all registered federal and provincial political parties; think tanks and democracy advocacy organizations; and technology vendors who primarily serve political campaigns,” Peesker said.

Microsoft launched AccountGuard in August 2018 as part of its Defending Democracy Program, which includes a suite of security tools and services to help US political campaigns and electoral organizations safeguard their IT networks from hackers.

More specifically, AccountGuard lets political organizations sign up the Office 365, Hotmail, or Outlook.com accounts of their staff for improved protection and threat detection. Microsoft will watch over these accounts for attacks from known nation-state attackers and alert administrators and victims in the case of any detected threat.

In addition, AccountGuard also provides access to a large number of cybersecurity webinars and workshops so IT teams can improve their security posture, but also advice from Microsoft engineers in the case of confirmed hacks.