Microsoft Defends Patch Previews

The U.S. government will not get a head start on other Windows users when it comes to Microsoft security updates, the company said Friday in response to news report that suggested otherwise.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Air Force will receive early versions of software patches through Microsoft’s Update Validation Program (SUVP) and those fixes will be forwarded to other agencies through the Department of Homeland Security.

But according to Microsoft, officials from the Redmond, Wash., software giant and the Air Force have met in recent weeks with officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the DHS to discuss the best practices established by the Air Force after a recent five-year $500-million deal inked in November.

“The SUVP is a separate matter outside of that agreement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “But what the other government agencies are seeing is that this agreement the Air Force has is working out pretty well for them and so they are considering what that may look like for other agencies,”

The Microsoft-Air Force deal centralized the military arm’s software support contracts under an enterprise-wide agreement, “to simplify the acquisition process while meeting demands for stringent enterprise-wide cyber-security requirements, timely distribution of software updates and enterprise configuration management,” the announcement read.

The “timely distribution of software updates” is the Air Force’s inclusion into SUVP, a closed program available to select companies. The program, launched in January after a year of beta tests, acts as a quality assurance test bed for software patches before they are distributed worldwide through Microsoft’s security updates on the second Tuesday of every month.

Members of the program test quality issues like patch compatibility, reliability and network performance on test servers within the organization.

“It’s kind of like a blind taste test, they’re not told, ‘this is fixing a vulnerability in this product,’ or any of that,” the spokesperson said. “They’re just given the updates. What you see from us on the second Tuesday of the month, there are a lot of different testing scenarios that go into it and this is just one of those.”

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