Microsoft expands AccountGuard ahead of elections, deepens Yubico partnership

Microsoft has expanded advanced features in the AccountGuard service ahead of upcoming elections. 

AccountGuard is a selective program for individuals and organizations that may face a higher risk of attack or account compromise due to their involvement in politics. 

The service includes cybersecurity guidance, access to webinars and workshops, notifications when a threat or “compromise by a known nation-state actor” against an Office 365 account linked to a member occurs, alerts relating to Hotmail and Outlook accounts, and damage control recommendations if a cyberattack is successful.  

Participants also have a point of contact in the Microsoft Defending Democracy Program team. 

This week, Microsoft expanded the offering to all AccountGuard members in 31 democracies to include identity and access management protections at no further cost. 

“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,” Microsoft says. 

The company’s expansion includes multi-factor authentication, single sign-on services for cloud apps, conditional access policy implementation, and privileged identity management (PIM) — the creation of time and approval-based access policies for sensitive and important resources. 

Microsoft’s access options were made available to political parties ahead of the US 2020 elections, and with similar events coming up in countries including the Netherlands, Finland, and Germany, the firm’s rollout is intended to stop “hack and leak” attempts before they have a chance to begin. 

In addition, the Redmond giant has announced the expansion of an existing partnership with Yubico. Yubico manufactures YubiKey, a physical dongle for multi-factor authentication designed to reduce the risk of phishing attempts and account takeovers. 

As of now, up to 25,000 YubiKeys will be offered to AccountGuard members. Depending on the size of the organization applying, a number of free keys may be on offer. 

In April last year, Microsoft made the service available for healthcare entities and human rights groups, saying that these organizations would maintain access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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