Software update for your iPhone! Should you accept?

The International Space Station's Cupola along with two 'parked' Russian spacecraft -- a Soyuz and a progress supply ship on July 12, 2011.

One under-reported tech story of last week was NASA losing direct contact with the International Space Station for nearly three hours. The reason for the communication outage? One of those pesky software updates, just like the ones you get on your home computer. The onboard communication system malfunctioned while the software was loading.

NASA’s experience lead to the question: When it comes to software patches, how up to date are you?

Chester Wisniewski, a computer security expert at Sophos, says software updates are much more serious than just a chance to add a shiny new feature.

"It's a pretty high priority issue when you have those things pop up," says Wisniewski. "There were some emergency Java updates available from Oracle and criminals were already using flaws in the software before the update was available."

According to Wisniewski, security vulnerabilities are almost always at the root of updates, and he says companies are trying to make it easier for users to get the latest fixes. For its part, Microsoft releases all of its updates in a bundle on the second Tuesday of every month, a day known as “Patch Tuesday.”

To learn more about software security, click on the audio player above.

About the author

Chester Wisniewski is a computer security expert with the computer security firm Sophos.

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