Microsoft’s silence over unprecedented patch delay doesn’t smell right

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Last month, Microsoft took the unprecedented step of canceling Patch Tuesday, the company’s monthly release of security fixes for its large stable of software products. The move meant that customers had to wait 28 days to receive updates that fixed vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to completely hijack computers and networks.

The last-minute move was all the more unusual because Microsoft made it a few days after exploit code for a Windows 10 flaw was released into the wild. In the nine days that followed the cancellation, technical details for two more serious vulnerabilities—one in Windows and the other in the Edge and Internet Explorer browsers—were also disclosed. Microsoft’s security team almost certainly knew the latter two flaws would become public knowledge because Google’s Project Zero privately reported the vulnerabilities to Microsoft and the bugs were subject to Google’s long-standing 90-day disclosure deadline.

Microsoft finally patched the bugs when Patch Tuesday resumed earlier this week with a release that was unusually big by historical measures. That’s good, but customers had still been forced to wait 28 days to get the fixes. And, as already noted, details about at least three of them were already well-known. So far, Microsoft hasn’t explained why it canceled February’s releases except to say the situation was prompted by an unspecified “last-minute issue.” ZDNet writer Mary Jo Foley, meanwhile, said unnamed people speculate that the cancellation was the result of a “problem with Microsoft’s build system.”

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