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Tech firms offer free cybersecurity solutions to 2018 campaigns

With daily headlines on cyber threats to candidate websites and election systems, a number of companies are giving vulnerable organizations access to their cybersecurity solutions for free.

Microsoft is offering its AccountGuard gratis to all candidates currently running for federal, state and local office in the United States, as well as to campaign organizations for sitting members of Congress, national and state party committees and technology providers who primarily serve campaigns. 

Microsoft AccountGuard provides threat notification across organizational and personal email accounts, security guidance and ongoing education. Participants will also receive access to private previews of security features offered to large corporate and government account customers.   Organizations must be using Office 365 to register for the service.

“We constructed Microsoft AccountGuard to account for the threats [political campaigns and U.S. government institutions] face, their unique resource constraints and the mix of technologies they often use,” Tom Burt, corporate vice president of customer security and trust, wrote in an Aug. 20 blog post.

McAfee, meanwhile, announced on Aug. 15 that it would offer state election officials access to a free 12-month license of McAfee Skyhigh Security Cloud. The solution provides comprehensive monitoring, auditing and remediation for infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service environments.

Organizations that want to participate in the McAfee Cloud for Secure Elections Program will have their  election infrastructure reviewed by the company to confirm that it meets McAfee system requirements and that participation doesn’t impact any state or local contract restrictions.

Cylance announced Aug. 16 that its Cylance Smart Antivirus software will be available at no cost to all campaigns, candidates, staff and volunteers, as well as the American public this election season.  The solution extends the company's CylancePROTECT artificial intelligence-based threat prevention solution to all personal devices to predict and block threats. The free offer includes a three-device free license that expires on Nov. 30, 2018.

“Our software can help protect everyone, but safeguarding the integrity of the democratic process from the unprecedented number of threats is especially important to us,” Cylance CEO Stuart McClure said. “Data and information are at risk like never before, and any person in any organization is a target for cyber attacks that range from malware to phishing to ransomware.”

Maurice Turner, senior technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said companies are providing their services to election officials to give back to communities in a civic sense.

“These companies are making a good faith effort to provide some service that would normally cost these organizations money,” Turner said.  “A lot of money will be spent on cybersecurity in the coming years, and it is in the best interest of these companies to position themselves as willing and capable to work with election officials and campaigns.”

Other organizations like the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government offer resources to help election officials improve their cybersecurity. Its 2017 Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook aims to help campaigns protect themselves and their candidates from adversaries in the digital space.

According to numbers from the Election Assistance Commission, 41 states are using their election security funding to improve cybersecurity for election systems.

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