Microsoft offers online protection to politicos amid pre-election security fears

As a federal election approaches, Microsoft is offering advanced online threat-detection tools to Canadian political candidates and parties to shore up their cyberdefences.

Microsoft's AccountGuard, designed to warn customers about cyberthreats, including attacks by nation-states, will be provided free to registered parties at the federal and provincial level, think-tanks and democracy advocacy organizations that already use the company's Office 365, Outlook.com and Hotmail products.

The company is also offering political officials, campaigns and related organizations practical guidance to help make their networks and email systems more secure, from proper log-in procedures to recognizing attempts to steal information.

In providing the tools, the company is mindful that Russian intelligence agents stand accused of hacking Democratic party emails and computers during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Jan Neutze, global director for cybersecurity policy at Microsoft, said one of the favoured techniques of cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers remains the spear-phishing email, an innocent-looking message that can lure those who click on it into giving up their private credentials or other vital details.

That can open the door to data theft or stolen emails that may be used for damaging leaks or extortion.