Microsoft has launched new ‘election software’ which makes it much more difficult to hack elections, can determine whether the results are compromised and detects whether a cyber intrusion has occurred.
The free software, called ElectionGuard, is due to be tested in some US elections this year but won’t be universally deployed in time for the US presidential election in November 2020.
Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president of Customer Security & Trust, wrote in his blog that the software will mean it is impossible to ‘hack’ the vote without being detected: “It’s very much like the cybersecurity version of a tamper-proof bottle. Tamper-proof bottles don’t prevent any hack of the contents inside of the bottle, but it makes it harder, and it definitely reveals when the tampering has occurred,” he said.
Microsoft is also developing ‘Defending Democracy’ software, which it claims has already stopped attacks against campaigns and organisations in the United States and Europe. The software protects campaigns, government agencies and think-tanks from phishing attacks and other hacking attempts.
The open source program will be available in June on GitHub. It was developed through a partnership with Oregon-based Galois, which received a grant from the US Defense Department.
Microsoft is also due to partner with voting machine vendors such as Election Systems & Software.
Galois principal scientist Joe Kiniry said: “It’s meant to be a model of a secure voting system that private companies can take and build. The system could have a wider deployment by 2024.”
Joe Hall, the chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology said: “For voters, the most tangible thing they would see from this is they would now have the ability to track the ballot as it goes through the entire process. Like what voters have with packages, or pizza, it will say this is at this facility; it has been counted.”