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Microsoft unveils open source tool to safeguard Elections

Written by Tue 7 May 2019

ElectionGuard will use homomorphic encryption to make elections and voting more secure

At its annual Build developer conference in Seattle, Microsoft unveiled software designed to make electronic voting machines more secure.

The firm also announced a new version of its Microsoft 365 software aimed at political parties and campaigns, offering “high-end security” that will be initially available in the UK.

Speaking on-stage at the conference, Microsoft 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”.

The voting system software, called ElectionGuard, has been developed in partnership with software firm Galois, who are working on new software for voting systems and machines to improve how elections are run.

It includes the ability to improve the auditing of elections, as well as make it easier to verify results.

“[ElectionGuard] will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organizations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

The tool will use a technique called homomorphic encryption to enable the counting of fully encrypted data. This means anyone can access the system to verify that votes have been correctly counted, without actually being able to see who cast them, Microsoft said.

Microsoft said it would make its ElectionGuard software open source and available online later this year so it would be more widely tested.

Internet companies, and in particular social media platforms, have come under increased scrutiny in recent years over their ability to be used to spread false information and potentially influence elections.

Edge allegiance

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 which 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.”

Written by Tue 7 May 2019


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