Microsoft’s "defending democracy" programme is expanding its offerings to help protect the integrity of the New Zealand general election on October 17.
The software giant today extended its Microsoft 365 for campaigns to cover political campaigns in this year’s election, after similar rollouts in the US and Canada, as well as extending other programmes to enhance election security for Aotearoa.
The company said it would offer all registered New Zealand political parties and candidates the same advanced security capabilities at the discounted price it gave to non-profits and NGOs.
M365 for Campaigns offered "trusted" business productivity and collaboration tools, Microsoft said. These include Exchange Online for email, SharePoint and OneDrive for file sharing, Teams for the latest in collaboration, and Office applications including Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
"Campaigns are fast-paced complex environments that don’t often have the same resources as large enterprises," the company said in a blog post.
Electoral processes face unprecedented threats to their integrity, Microsoft said after it revealed last week that sophisticated actors originating from Iran, Russia and China have attempted to compromise major political campaigns and committees in the US Presidential Election.
Digital technology was the backbone of today’s economy and society – and even though in New Zealand and many other countries the act of voting is still conducted with paper ballots, many of the processes surrounding both the conduct of the election and of campaigning occur digitally.
The director-general of NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), Andrew Hampton, was recently asked at a rare public speech at Victoria University in Wellington why such actors would care to target New Zealand elections.
Hampton explained that one reason why New Zealand may be targeted is because of its strong democratic foundations – some of the malicious parties may want to compromise integrity of New Zealand’s electoral process to undermine faith in the democracy itself.
Therefore, Microsoft said, the cyber resilience of New Zealand’s electoral process was as important to the people of Aotearoa as it was for the international democratic community.
Microsoft said M365 for Campaigns allowed users to protect email and work files in the cloud and on all of their devices with enterprise-grade security that is simple to manage, including the quick application of extra protections for user accounts and identity.
In February, the company announced other initiatives focused on protecting individual accounts with Microsoft’s threat intelligence as well as training people involved in the campaigns on cybersecurity best practices.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced it had been granted Government’s approval to proceed with its investment to open a new cloud region in New Zealand.
The applications was to acquire non-sensitive land in Auckland to build two new datacentres.
The application said the vendors of the land included "various datacentre service providers" and property owners with assets and land in New Zealand.