Microsoft AcountGuard

Microsoft has launched a pilot program aimed at providing cybersecurity protection for political campaigns and election authorities.

The pilot program —named AccountGuard— was launched at the end of July, Bleeping Computer has learned, and was set in motion for the 2018 US midterm elections.

According to the pilot's website, AccountGuard "provides additional security and threat monitoring for Microsoft accounts belonging to participating US campaigns, political committees, campaign tech vendors, and their staff, who are likely to be at a higher risk in the lead up to elections."

Only political and election entities can sign up for protection

Microsoft is now running a website where participants in the 2018 US midterm elections can sign up for this increased protection.

According to the website, this service is part of Microsoft's "Election Defense Technologies" and is offered on a non-partisan basis by invitation only. Users from the following organizations are eligible to participate:

❖    US-based political campaigns
❖    US-based political committees
❖    Select campaign technology vendors
❖    Select individuals may also participate, if invited by eligible campaigns and affiliated organizations

Microsoft AccountGuard portal

Microsoft says that users who enroll their Microsoft accounts in the AccountGuard program will receive notifications when Microsoft detects a "cyber incident" targeting their account.

The OS maker already monitors Microsoft accounts for regular threats such as phishing emails, malware attachments, and suspicious logins, as part of its regular user defenses.

With AccountGuard added to their account, Microsoft is providing custom notifications, but also "reactive remediation support through standard channel" and "prescriptive best-practice security guidance" to proactively prevent incidents.

Part of Microsoft's Defending Democracy Program

AccountGuard is a project of the Microsoft Defending Democracy Program, an initiative that Microsoft launched in mid-April to safeguard electoral processes.

According to a Microsoft blog post describing this initiative, the first point on the list of priorities for the Microsoft Defending Democracy Program was:

Protect campaigns from hacking through increased cyber resilience measures, enhanced account monitoring and incident response capabilities.

Microsoft has not made a formal announcement regarding the AccountGuard service, and the website does not appear to be indexed by any search engine. Bleeping Computer has sent a request for comment to Microsoft, but the company has not responded before this article's publication.

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