In an era where vote tampering is one of the biggest fears among the voters, Microsoft reveals that it’s working on an election system that can not only make the process a lot more secure but accessible as well. Also, Microsoft revealed in its official blog post that nearly 10,000 customers were targets of cyberattack by nation-sponsored actors in the previous year and their data was compromised.
Microsoft further says that these cyberattacks were unrelated to the democratic process and were instead used to gain intelligence, influence politics, and more. “About 84% of these attacks targeted our enterprise customers and about 16% of targeted consumer personal email accounts,” disclosed Tom Burt, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust.
Burt then talked about how Microsoft has seen widespread cyber activity from 5 specific groups in Iran, North Korea, and Russia regions. The company has even named some of these groups, including “Holmium and Mercury operating from Iran, Thallium operating from North Korea, and two actors operating from Russia we call Yttrium and Strontium.”
They were weeded by the Threat Intelligence Center within the company and Hollium is said to target headquarters in the U.S, Saudi Arabia, and other locations dealing in the military and commercial aviation sector. Strontium, a Russian group is better known as Fancy Bear or APT28 and is rumored to be working with the country’s own intelligence service.
Microsoft launched AccountGuard to help protect the critical democratic processes from cyberattacks earlier last year. It has since shed light on the hacking attempts targetting organizations (political campaigns, parties, and NGOs) crucial to democracy. It has now made 781 notifications of nation-led cyberattacks to organizations using AccountGuard.
With technology and social media now being blamed to sway the election cycle and the voting process being rigged, Microsoft is adamant that its technology will come in super handy to prevent the same. “Governments and civil society have important roles to play, but the tech industry also has a responsibility to help defend democracy,” added Burt in Microsoft’s blog post.