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Microsoft unveils cyber security tools for voting machines

Image credit: Dreamstime

Microsoft has unveiled enhanced cyber-security systems designed to improve the resilience of voting machines.

The firm said that technology can play “a critical role in securing elections” and that technology companies “have a responsibility to support them”.

It announced a free, open-source software development kit called ElectionGuard designed to provide security and public verifiability for elections, as well as guidance and tools to build more accessible voting systems.

Microsoft is asking developers around the world to build on and integrate ElectionGuard into existing and new voting systems when it becomes available this summer on GitHub.

It also announced Microsoft 365 for Campaigns, a new service that will provide security features from its Microsoft 365 Business package to political parties and campaigns.

The firm said it had optimised this for the “unique operating environments” that campaigns face, including their fast pace and high-security-risk profile.

Security around elections became a particularly big issue in 2016 after Donald Trump won the US presidency. Russian interference in the process was shown to have had an impact on the campaign and seven Russian citizens were arrested or indicted on US cybercrime charges in 2017.

Speaking on-stage at Microsoft’s annual Build conference in Seattle, chief executive Satya Nadella said the firm’s mission was to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.

He added that Microsoft saw “privacy as a human right”.

Elsewhere at its developer conference, Microsoft confirmed a number of new features for its own-built web browser, Microsoft Edge.

It includes a new tool that will allow apps built into the firm’s former browser - Internet Explorer - to run in Edge.

Called IE Mode, it will allow people and business who use more than one web browser for their work to run Internet Explorer-based apps in Edge as well, Microsoft said.

Edge was introduced as the replacement for Internet Explorer in 2015.

The tech giant also confirmed it was revamping the privacy tools in place in Edge to make them easier to understand.

Users will now able to choose between three basic privacy setting levels - Unrestricted, Balanced and Strict - and the browser would automatically adjust a number of settings for them.

“As computing becomes embedded in every aspect of our lives, the choices developers make will define the world we live in,” Mr Nadella said.

“Microsoft is committed to providing developers with trusted tools and platforms spanning every layer of the modern technology stack to build magical experiences that create new opportunity for everyone.”

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