New cyber security service helps protect Australian democracy

Microsoft AccountGuard

By Tom Daemen, Director Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft Australia & New Zealand

With the Federal election on the horizon and NSW poll just days away it’s timely to reflect on the importance of democracy to all Australians and to take stock of how well we are able to protect our democratic rights and institutions.

Last year in the US, we launched Microsoft AccountGuard, a security service designed to provide additional critical cyber protection to customers operating in the political sphere. It forms a key plank in our Defending Democracy initiative.

I’m delighted to announce that Microsoft AccountGuard is now available to eligible organisations and individuals in Australia.

We have witnessed in recent times how forces disruptive to democracy have harnessed technology to game our political systems.

Australians were reminded in February of this emerging threat to our own institutions, when the Federal Government revealed that a sophisticated cyber attack had been launched against Parliament House and the people working there.

Further, it was revealed that some of our major political parties had also been targeted by the same malicious actor.

Microsoft developed AccountGuard as part of our broad response under the Defending Democracy program to growing concerns about foreign interference in democratic processes around the world.

Since the well-publicised allegations of state-sponsored interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections, there have been multiple reported attempts by nation-states, individuals and entities to undermine, attack and damage critical democratic institutions and infrastructure.

In Australia, AccountGuard is a service provided at no cost to political parties and candidates who are using Office 365. The service provides notification about cyberthreats, including attacks by known nation-state actors, across email systems run by eligible organisations and the personal accounts of these organisations’ leaders and staff.

Microsoft AccountGuard is available to all political candidates, parties, and campaign offices operating at a State or national level; and is also available to eligible Think Tanks and Associated Entities.

Those eligible for Microsoft AccountGuard can visit https://www.microsoft.com/accountguard to request an invitation to enroll or to learn more.

In launching AccountGuard, Australia joins the US, Canada, India, the UK, Ireland and 12 other European markets in having access to the service.

While AccountGuard does not replace existing security solutions and best practice, it is a useful tool in political parties’ kitbags to protect them and their candidates from unwanted interference.

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