Government Agencies To Get Early Dibs On Windows Patches - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Government Agencies To Get Early Dibs On Windows Patches

Microsoft will give the federal government patches to fix security holes in Windows and other software a month before the general public receives them.

Microsoft will give the Air Force and other federal agencies software patches to test a month before the general public receives them. The arrangement is part of Microsoft's Security Update Validation Program, a "closed beta program" introduced within the past 12 months.

Microsoft will begin giving prerelease software patches to the Air Force, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The Department of Homeland Security will give advance notice of the new vulnerabilities to other government agencies and distribute the patches to them after they've been tested by the Air Force, the newspaper reported.

Advance testing will make it possible for government agencies to install the patches as soon as Microsoft releases the final versions. That's aimed at helping agencies stay ahead of hackers, who often are able to develop attacks that exploit a software hole less than a week after Microsoft discloses the vulnerability.

The early-access program is also available to select business customers.

The software updates are provided to program participants only for testing purposes, a Microsoft spokesman says. "Customers are specifically prohibited from deploying these security updates in a production environment," the spokesman says via E-mail. "Participants are testing prerelease software, therefore the updates are provided only to deploy in a test environment. Participants can only deploy the security updates to their entire infrastructure when they are released to the general public."

The issue of providing advance access to security bulletins and software patches is a sensitive subject for Microsoft and other software vendors, who need to ensure that information and code don't find their way to hackers before final patches are available for all customers. And customers who don't receive advance notice may believe they're at a disadvantage.

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