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National: Microsoft offers software tools to secure elections | Associated Press

Microsoft has announced an ambitious effort to make voting secure, verifiable and subject to reliable audits by registering ballots in encrypted form so they can be accurately and independently tracked long after they are cast. Two of the three top U.S elections vendors have expressed interest in potentially incorporating the open-source software into their voting systems. The software is being developed with Galois, an Oregon-based company separately creating a secure voting system prototype under contract with the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, DARPA. Dubbed “ElectionGuard,” it will be available this summer, Microsoft says, with early prototypes ready to pilot for next year’s U.S. general elections. CEO Satya Nadella announced the initiative Monday at a developer’s conference in Seattle, saying the software development kit would help “modernize all of the election infrastructure everywhere in the world.” Three little-known U.S. companies control about 90 percent of the market for election equipment, but have long faced criticism for poor security, antiquated technology and insufficient transparency around their proprietary, black-box voting systems. Open-source software is inherently more secure because the underlying code is easily scrutinized by outside experts but has been shunned by the dominant vendors whose customers — the nation’s 10,000 election jurisdictions — are mostly strapped for cash. None offered bids when Travis County, Texas, home to Austin, sought to build a system with the “end-to-end” verification attributes that ElectionGuard promises to deliver. Two of the leading vendors, Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Nebraska, and Hart InterCivic of Austin, Texas, both expressed interest in partnering with Microsoft for ElectionGuard. A spokeswoman for a third vendor, Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, said the company looks forward to “learning more” about the initiative.

Full Article: Microsoft offers software tools to secure elections.

National: Facebook and Microsoft briefed state officials on election security efforts today | TechCrunch

So much for summer Fridays. Yesterday, BuzzFeed reported that a dozen tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snapchat, would meet at Twitter headquarters on Friday to discuss election security. For two of them, that wasn’t the only meeting in the books. In what appears to be a separate event on Friday, Facebook and Microsoft also met with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and two bodies of state election officials, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), about their election security efforts.

Full Article: Facebook and Microsoft briefed state officials on election security efforts today | TechCrunch.

National: Russian hackers targeting more US political groups, Microsoft says | The Guardian

Microsoft says it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting US political groups before the midterm elections. The company said a group linked to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two US conservative organisations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the Senate. Microsoft did not offer any further description of the fake sites. The revelation came just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led the senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network.

Full Article: Russian hackers targeting more US political groups, Microsoft says | US news | The Guardian.

Iowa: Microsoft’s vote tallying app worked, web sites didn’t | USA Today

Despite rumors on Twitter to the contrary, by almost all accounts the Microsoft app used to tally unverified caucus votes in Iowa worked exactly as it was supposed to. What broke were the web sites where Republicans and Democrats posted close to real-time information about those votes, which at times crashed under the crush of people eager for news of their candidates. That didn’t surprise Douglas W. Jones, the recording secretary for the Democratic caucus, precinct 4 in Iowa City, Iowa. “In the modern, media-driven world, we’re desperate for results,” he said. His son Nathaniel Douglas, 32, send their caucus results in to the county Democratic party using the app built by Microsoft for the purpose, which he said “worked as advertised.” In precincts where workers didn’t have smart phones, the older updating system of calling in and pressing buttons on a touch-tone phone after inputting a PIN for security was used. “Both systems worked fine,” Douglas said. … At their heart, they are a way for Iowa voters to chose delegates to county, district and state political conventions who will then go on to chose their candidate. That process is heavily scrutinized and has very reliable and very old security baked into it — “it all happens on paper, which we’ve been using for elections going back to Roman times,” said Jones, who is also a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and an expert on online voting systems.

Full Article: Iowa caucus vote tallying system worked perfectly.

Iowa: Microsoft on the hot seat in Iowa | The Hill

Microsoft volunteered to provide the technology to help tally up the results of Iowa’s caucus, free of charge. Now it will be put to the test Monday night. The contests in both parties are expected to go down to the wire. And the spotlight will be on precinct officials who have been trained on a new Microsoft app, which is meant to cut down on human error and speed up the reporting process. Both the Republican and Democratic parties in Iowa have expressed strong confidence in Microsoft, dismissing late suspicion of corporate influence from the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) early last week. Party officials have said no errors have been spotted in caucus dry runs. But the Sanders campaign has created its own backup reporting system, as has the Hillary Clinton campaign. “It will be interesting to see what happens if and when there are discrepancies between the Microsoft system and either Democratic or Republican campaign tabulations,” Iowa State University professor Mack Shelley said. 

Full Article: Microsoft on the hot seat in Iowa | TheHill.

Iowa: Sanders camp suspicious of Microsoft’s influence in Iowa Caucus | MSNBC

The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is raising questions about the involvement of Microsoft in the Iowa Caucuses, now just days away, and has built an independent system to check the official results. For the first time this year, Microsoft partnered with the Iowa Democratic and Republican Parties to provide a technology platform with which the parties will run their caucuses. The software giant created separate mobile apps for each party, which officials at hundreds of caucuses across the state will use to report out results from individual precincts to party headquarters for tabulation. The arrangement has aroused the suspicions of aides to Sanders, who regularly warn that corporate power and the billionaire class are trying to hijack democracy. Pete D’Alessandro, who is running the Iowa portion of Sanders’ campaign, questioned the motives of the major multinational corporation in an interview with MSNBC: “You’d have to ask yourself why they’d want to give something like that away for free.” The Sanders campaign has built their own reporting system to check the results from the official Microsoft-backed app. It has trained its precinct captain on using the app, which is designed to be as user friendly as possible, and the campaign will also staff a hotline system as further redundancy.

Full Article: Sanders camp suspicious of Microsoft's influence in Iowa Caucus | MSNBC.

National: Microsoft Co-Founder Allen Bets on Online Voting; Funds Scytl | Wall Street Journal

People bank online and do their taxes online. But not many vote online. On Monday, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen‘s venture-capital fund said it was betting that online voting will win over skeptics worried about security and gradually become the norm for elections world-wide. Vulcan Capital’s growth equity fund, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said it will invest $40 million in Scytl, a digital voting services company based in Barcelona with customers in more than 30 countries, including Canada, Mexico and Australia. Scytl, founded in 2001, sells a range of services aimed at modernizing elections, from training poll workers and registering voters to hosting elections online and counting votes. Scytl has previously received investments from Balderton Capital, Nauta Capital and Spinnaker SCR.

Full Article: Microsoft Co-Founder Allen Bets on Online Voting; Funds Scytl - Digits - WSJ.

Editorials: Internet voting advocates ignorant of software, says computer scientist Barbara Simons | FierceGovernmentIT

Advocates of Internet voting typically form their opinions without real knowledge of how software works, said Barbara Simons, a computer scientist and board member of She gave an Aug. 8 talk to the research division of Microsoft; the company posted a webcast of her presentation online. “They don’t understand why when we say you can’t find all the software bugs, you can’t,” Simons said. An analogous public policy example of how software can permit inadvertent flaws that enable later malicious exploitation is the U.S. tax code, she said. Congress periodically approves well-intentioned updates to that complex system which, once implemented, “turn out to benefit a single company in ways that have not been anticipated before the update,” she said.

Full Article: Internet voting advocates ignorant of software, says Simons - FierceGovernmentIT.

Washington: State partners with Microsoft and Facebook – voter registration app set to launch soon | electionlineWeekly

Now, in addition to letting all their friends know about what they had for dinner last night, or their political views, what they are listening to on Spotify, or their relationship status, Facebook users in Washington State will soon be able to let all their friends know that they are registered to vote. The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has teamed up with Microsoft and Facebook to offer citizens in Washington a first-in-the-nation opportunity to register to vote via the social networking site. “Our estimate [through Pew’s Electronic Registration Information Center] is that we have potentially two million eligible, but unregistered voters,” said Dave Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “The Facebook app is a marvelous way to prompt people onto our MyVote site for both registration and updates, as well as our voter vault of customized information.” Ammons noted that the state has had online registration since 2008 and that it is quite popular, especially with the Millennials. About a third of the state’s registration traffic is online.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.