May 6 (UPI) -- Microsoft Corp. has launched new software that makes it more difficult to hack elections, detects whether a cyber intrusion has occurred and determines whether the results are compromised.
Called ElectionGuard, the free software could be tested in some U.S. elections this year but won't be widely deployed in time for the U.S. presidential election November 2020.
"It will not be possible to 'hack' the vote without detection," Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president of Customer Security & Trust, in a blog post.
Microsoft officially announced the software Monday at an industry conference in Seattle.
"It's very much like the cybersecurity version of a tamper-proof bottle," Burt told NPR. "Tamper-proof bottles don't prevent any hack of the contents inside of the bottle, but it makes it harder, and it definitely reveals when the tampering has occurred."
Microsoft is also developing the Defending Democracy software that protects campaigns, government agencies and think-tanks from phishing attacks and other hacking attempts. That technology already has stopped attacks against campaigns and organizations in the United States and Europe, the company said.
The open source program will be available in June on GitHub. It was developed through a partnership with Oregon-based Galois, which received a grant from the Defense Department. Microsoft also will partner with voting machine vendors such as Election Systems & Software.
It's meant to be a model of a secure voting system that private companies can take and build, said Joe Kiniry, a principal scientist at Galois. The system could have a wider deployment by 2024.
"For voters, the most tangible thing they would see from this is they would now have the ability to track the ballot as it goes through the entire process," said Joe Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Similar to what voters have with packages, or pizza, it will say this is at this facility; it has been counted."