Microsoft unveiled a low-cost cybersecurity product for campaigns on Monday, just days before the FEC is set to rule on a request by an organization co-founded by Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades to offer similar services for free or reduced cost to campaigns.
In Seattle at its Build Conference on Monday, Microsoft announced the availability of 365 for Campaigns through its Defending Democracy Program.
“M365 for Campaigns was created to address concerns that secure and productive email & productivity solutions are either too complex to configure securely or are too expensive,” the company said in its announcement.
Jan Neutze, senior director of the Defending Democracy Program, tweeted Monday that the new service will “provide automation of our high-end M365 security capabilities, a [sic] discounted price.”
Pricing is $5 per month per user, according to a company announcement, which includes services like email, file sharing, collaboration on files and cloud storage.
“Campaigns are critically important to the democratic process, and this offering will make it simple to achieve strong security baseline defaults for a campaign’s most important communications,” the company said.
The product will be available this summer to “all Federal election campaigns, federal candidate committees, and national party committees in the United States.”
Meanwhile, at the open meeting of the FEC schedule for May 9, commissioners are expected to make their long-awaited ruling on the request from Defending Digital Campaigns, Inc., a 501(c)4, which is seeking the commission’s approval to “provide or facilitate the provision of certain cybersecurity services, software, and hardware for free or at a reduced cost to federal candidate committees and national party committees on a nonpartisan basis and according to pre-determined, objective criteria.”
One of the arguments Mook and Rhoades made to commissioners when they appeared to ask for the exemption last month was that cybersecurity services were cost-prohibitive for down-ballot campaigns.
“We’re putting an enormous burden on campaigns that maybe have one or two staff,” said Mook. “The work’s just not getting done, and so the threat remains.”
Microsoft, meanwhile, also unveiled ElectionGuard, a free, open-source software development kit (SDK) to help elections officials and voters ensure the security of elections.
“ElectionGuard provides a complete implementation of end-to-end verifiable elections,” the company said. “It is designed to work with systems that use paper ballots, supplementing today’s tabulation process by providing a means of public verification of the accuracy of reported results.”
The software is meant to be a “road map” for those who want to implement greater tracking and verification of ballots.