How Microsoft is Defending Democracy

Digital Solutions and Services for the School of Government supports the Microsoft Suite as we innovate business and technology. During this Presidential Election in particular, we realize the important role that technology plays in how we participate in elections, as well as how we track their results. Our world is now virtual, it is critical that we keep up to date on innovations and developments in technology. One of these innovations came in April of 2018, when Microsoft announced its Defending Democracy Program in an effort to “work with all stakeholders in democratic countries globally.” As listed in an article in Microsoft News, the purpose of this program is to protect campaigns from hacking, increase political advertising transparency online, explore technological solutions to preserve and protect electoral processes, and defend against disinformation campaigns.  

Program Features 


A free security service for existing Microsoft users in the political spaceAccountGuard is designed specifically for users who are at high risk for cybersecurity threats. The following users are invited to participate in the service, if they are non-partisan and eligible for participation: 

  • American political campaigns 
  • American political committees 
  • Campaign technology vendors 
  • Individuals who have been invited by eligible campaigns and affiliated organizations 
  • O365 customers in the U.S Congress 
  • State elections departments and officials in the United States 
  • Journalists 
  • Healthcare and human rights organizations 

Once users are approved to use the service, AccountGuard offers counsel regarding best practices regarding cybersecurity, access to security workshops, and notifications for verifiable threats against Office 365 accounts, as well as email accounts registered to Hotmail or Outlook. If a compromise is verified, AccountGuard refers its users to remediation groups and provides a direct line to the Defending Democracy Program. 



For years, the United States election infrastructure have been the targets of cybersecurity threats. To protect U.S. democracy, Microsoft developed ElectionGuard to further its Defending Democracy Program. ElectionGuard provides end-to-end verifiable election techniques, which are software- and hardware-free procedures that enable voters to check election results in real-time. 


ElectionGuard enables individual users to verify that their vote in any election is been correctly tallied and accounted for by detecting cyber-attacks. This service is made possible by encrypting and assigning unique identifiers to each vote. Every voter has access to their vote’s tracking code to ensure that their vote is unchanged and tallied.


The United States runs on secret ballots, which means that every person’s vote must be private, and ElectionGuard adheres to this requirement. The program uses homomorphic encryption, which "allows for computations to be done on encrypted data, without requiring access to a secret (decryption) key.” The use of this encryption means that the results of the computations can only be accessed by the owner of the decryption key, which in this case is the voter.


While ElectionGuard is still in development and not available for the 2020 Presidential Election, it has been designed to work alongside existing voting systems and will be easily incorporated into our voting process once it is incorporated. The software components that make up ElectionGuard are open source and can be found on GitHub, where curious developers can find the sources, packages, dockers, and documentations for each open source component. 


Microsoft 365 for Campaigns 

Fans of Microsoft 365 for Business rejoice: The Defending Democracy Program recently launched Microsoft 365 for Campaigns (M365 for Campaigns). This brings the high-security features of Business to individuals and campaigns in the political sphere. According to a blog for M365 for Campaigns, the service boasts three main benefits: 

  1. Dedicated IT support staff. Most campaigns do not hire IT specialists, and this deficiency in tech professionals often leaves campaigns vulnerable to security threats and breaches. M365 for Campaigns takes advantage of the best security settings that Microsoft has to offer, configured specifically for politically active professionals. 
  2. Affordability. Comprehensive security software can be expensive, but for only $5 a month, M365 for Campaigns offers some of the best security services for a fraction of most companies’ prices.  
  3. Access to AccountGuard. As discussed earlier in this blog, AccountGuard boasts a myriad of features that will benefit any organization. From security workshops to real-time cybersecurity referrals, AccountGuard is sure to keep any campaign protected against cyber threats and security breaches.  

Calling It 

This November, the United States is going to experience an election like we’ve never seen before. As our country and political climate are changing, technology is evolving to keep up. Stay on top of updates and advances in the tech world with Digital Solutions and Services for SOGand our suite of choice, Microsoft.