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How Microsoft AccountGuard is helping secure countries ahead of five national elections

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Yubikey Macbook (Image credit: Yubico)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is expanding protections available to AccountGuard members in 31 countries.
  • AccountGuard helps protect organizations and individuals in the political space.
  • Microsoft also announced an expanded partnership with Yubico.

Microsoft is expanding its enterprise-grade identify and access management protections to all AccountGuard members in 31 countries. The company announced (opens in new tab) the expansion recently and outlines how it will help protect people at risk of cyberattacks. Here's a full list of the countries that will benefit from the expansion.

Specifically, the expansion includes multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, conditional access policies, privileged identity management, and access governance.

Microsoft's AccountGuard is a program for organizations and individuals in the political space. It's designed to help those that are likely to be targets of cybersecurity threats. Here's a quick list of what the service provides, as explained by Microsoft:

  • Best practices and security guidance specific to those in the political space.
  • Access to cybersecurity webinars and workshops.
  • Notification in the event of a verifiable threat or compromise by a known nation-state actor against the participant's Office 365 account.
  • Notification to both the organization and, where possible, the impacted individual if a registered Hotmail.com or Outlook.com account associated with the organization is verifiably threatened or compromised by a known nation-state actor.
  • Recommendations to the participating organization for remediation if a compromise is confirmed.
  • Enhanced identity protection features including Azure Active Directory P2 trial licenses and Yubico security keys.
  • A direct line to Microsoft's Defending Democracy Program team.

With the recent attack on Microsoft Exchange servers, and the SolarWinds attacks, it's clear that nation-state actors are targetting people and organizations.

"The addition of new features to AccountGuard provides new ways to protect online accounts for political parties, candidates and their staff, health care workers, human rights defenders, journalists and certain other customers who are at greatest risk from nation-state hackers," says Microsoft in its blog post.

The expansion comes just as five democracies are leading up to elections. The Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Estonia, and the Czech Republic all have national elections coming up, so people and organizations should benefit from the expanded protections.

Microsoft explains in its blog post:

Improving the security of political actors – particularly in an election year – is a critical step to help prevent "hack-and-leak" operations where cybercriminals or foreign governments steal a campaign official's emails and release them online, which in turn can help fuel disinformation campaigns. These challenges pose an even greater concern in an environment where much of the campaign coordination and even the campaigning itself is taking place online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to expanding provided protections for AccountGuard members, Microsoft is expanding its partnership with Yubico (opens in new tab). Up to 25,000 YubiKeys will be provided by Yubico to high-profile and high-risk organizations free of cost.

"Yubico is a valued partner for Microsoft AccountGuard and the YubiKey is our recommended hardware-based multi-factor authentication solution," says Tom Burt, corporate vice President, customer security & trust, Microsoft. "We're working with individuals whose security is at risk by sophisticated attackers. Knowing that we can give AccountGuard customers the most advanced form of phishing protection, at no cost, is a tremendous win across the board."

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.