Wednesday January 29, 2020
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Microsoft Unveils Software for Secure, Verifiable Voting

The ElectionGuard SDK will be available through GitHub beginning this summer

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Logo of Microsoft outside it's office. Pixabay

In a bid to help countries ensure secure and verifiable voting, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced “ElectionGuard” — a free open-source software development kit (SDK).

“ElectionGuard” will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organisations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted, announced Nadella during the keynote at Microsoft Build developer conference here on Monday.

“‘ElectionGuard’ will make voting secure, more accessible, and more efficient anywhere it’s used in the US or in democratic nations around the world,” said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust.

Developed with Galois, “ElectionGuard” will be available starting this summer to election officials and election technology suppliers who can incorporate the technology into voting systems.

“We currently have partnerships with election technology suppliers responsible for more than half of the voting machines sold in the US,” Burt added.

“ElectionGuard” is not intended to replace paper ballots but rather to supplement and improve systems that rely on them, and it is not designed to support internet voting.

“ElectionGuard” is verifiable, allowing voters and third-party organisations to verify election results.

It is also secure, auditable and open source — free and flexible with the ability to be used with off-the-shelf hardware.

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FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

“ElectionGuard” provides each voter a tracker with a unique code that can be used to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal provided by election authorities.

During the process of vote-casting, voters have an optional step that allows them to confirm that their trackers and encrypted votes accurately reflect their selections.

But once a vote is cast, neither the tracker nor any data provided through the web portal can be used to reveal the contents of the vote.

After the election is complete, the tracker codes can be used by voters to confirm that their votes were not altered or tampered with and that they were properly counted, said Microsoft.

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Voters, candidates, news media and any observers can run verifiers of their own or downloaded from sources of their choosing to confirm tabulations are as reported.

On the security front, “ElectionGuard” uses something called homomorphic encryption – which enables mathematical procedures a” like counting – to be done with fully encrypted data.

The ElectionGuard SDK will be available through GitHub beginning this summer. (IANS)

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“Collaboration Is The Key To Ensure Cyber-Security”, Says Microsoft

The company deploys a number of sensors that are looking for information from cyber incidents around the world -- sort of metadata about what's going on -- whether it's from PCs, servers or in the Cloud

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Microsoft
Microsoft spends over $1 billion annually on Cyber-Security and uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in a big way to gain accurate insights and faster automated response to real-time threats. Pixabay

As governments the world over deliberate over how to tackle growing nation-state cyber attacks and protect sensitive data, a top Microsoft official said that collaborations between the governments, tech companies and third-party cybersecurity agencies can help address the growing menace.

According to Rob Lefferts, CVP-Program Management M365 Security at Microsoft, the company takes nation-state cyber attacks very seriously. “We have a whole research team dedicated to understand the behaviour of nation-state attacks. We partner with governments around the globe to help protect citizens against such attacks,” Lefferts told IANS during an interaction.

Microsoft spends over $1 billion annually on Cyber-Security and uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in a big way to gain accurate insights and faster automated response to real-time threats.

“We are using AI and ML as a tool to empower defenders and to more effectively protect organizations. When we talk to companies in India, 92 per cent of organisations have either already adopted or looking to adopt AI in their approach towards cybersecurity,” said Lefferts. For Microsoft, it is a strategic investment for the company.

“We took a very, very strong approach over six years ago around investing over $1billion a year in research and development of security technologies. The goal is to help us better protect, detect and respond to real-world threats in today’s environment,” stressed the Microsoft executive. The company deploys a number of sensors that are looking for information from cyber incidents around the world — sort of metadata about what’s going on — whether it’s from PCs, servers or in the Cloud.

“We do not collect actual content but metadata of behaviours. We collect more than 8 trillion of those signals every day. And then, we use those models to better protect organisations,” informed Lefferts. “Every day, 3,500 Microsoft security professionals track threats and provide better enforcement protection for our customers,” he added. According to him, Microsoft learns from its customers and actual users.

“What’s exciting is the ability to turn that information around at incredible speed to protect customers. Since we’re using Cloud-powered technologies, those updates and new protections come to customers almost instantaneously. In fact, in many cases, we use behavioural analytics to detect problems before they’re even problems,” Lefferts told IANS. Collaboration is very critical in the cybersecurity space.

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As governments the world over deliberate over how to tackle growing nation-state cyber attacks and protect sensitive data, a top Microsoft official said that collaborations between the governments, tech companies and third-party cybersecurity agencies can help address the growing menace. Pixabay

“One is collaboration across the security industry. Then there is collaboration around actual incidents and problems as they occur. This is a place where it’s not just a matter of machines; we need machines to empower humans,” he noted.

In 2018, top 34 global technology and securities firms, led by Microsoft and Facebook, signed a “Cybersecurity Tech Accord” to defend people from malicious attacks by cybercriminals and nation-states. The 34 companies include Cisco, HP, Nokia, Oracle, VMware, Dell, CA Technologies, Symantec, Bitdefender, F-Secure, RSA and Trend Micro, among others.

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“This tech sector accord will help us take a principled path towards more effective steps to work together and defend customers around the world,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. (IANS)