Microsoft offers online protection to politicians in the midst of pre-electoral security fears

OTTAWA – With the approach of federal elections, Microsoft offers advanced online threat detection tools to Canadian candidates and political parties to support their cyberdefissions.

Microsoft's AccountGuard, designed to alert customers of cyber threats, including nation state attacks, will be provided free of charge to federal and provincial parties, expert groups, and democracy defense organizations that already use Office 365, Outlook. com and Hotmail Products.

The company also offers policy-makers, campaigns, and related organizations a practical guide to making e-mail networks and systems safer, from appropriate access procedures to recognizing attempts to steal information.

In providing the tools, the company is aware that Russian intelligence agents are accused of hacking emails and computers from Democratic parties during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Jan Neutze, global director of cybersecurity policy at Microsoft, said one of the techniques favored by cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers remains spear-phishing e-mails – a message from the innocent look that can attract people who click on it to give up their private credentials or other vital details.

This can open the door to data theft or stolen emails that could be used to damage losses or extortion.

The Microsoft monitoring team will help detect malicious activity against accounts, try to determine the origin of the attempted intrusion and inform customers of threats.

Many organizations in politics have small staff and modest budgets, notes Neutze.

"Yet they are facing adversaries of the nation-state and so it is a total misalignment in terms of their ability to defend themselves against the threats they are facing".

Some, but not all, larger organizations such as political parties have begun to take more protective measures, he said. "I think there's a recognition that organizations are often not necessarily able to defend themselves against these threats alone."

The Liberal government recently announced that an impartial group of high-ranking bureaucrats would warn Canadians if the evil actors attempt to distort the outcome of the October elections through serious cyberattacks or disinformation campaigns orchestrated through social media.

The protocol is part of a series of measures to prevent interference in the elections.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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