Unsupervised Learning No. 261

News & Analysis

I spend my time reading 3-6 books a month on security, technology, and society—and thinking about what might be coming next. Every Monday I send out a list of the best content I've found in the last week to around 50,000 people. It'll save you tons of time.

STANDARD EDITION | EP. 261 | December 28, 2020


FireEye has published additional details about the SUNBURST backdoor, including anti-analysis mechanisms, domain generation algorithms, C2 behaviors, and malware modes of operation. Kevin Mandia says the true target for the operation was probably around 50 companies, even though thousands were affected. More

CERT says there's a SolarWinds Orion API authentication bypass that allows RCE. More

Google has disclosed a newly-unpatched Windows 0-Day in the print spooler API. More

Palantir just got a contract with the UK's NHS. Every time people think Palantir is dead, they spring back to life. They've been around for 17 years, have never been profitable, and said they might never be. Most of the income they do have comes from just a few customers. But somehow they keep getting interest and contracts. I think we truly have moved from a multiples-of-earnings valuation model to a narrative model, as others are saying. But how sustainable is that? Seems rather 2000'ish to me. More


DeepMind's latest AI can master games without being told their rules. First they created AlphaGo, which beat the best human players at Go. Then they created AlphaZero which beat that one with no input except the rules. Now MuZero can beat all those without even being told the rules. Cool. Not scary at all. More

Facebook Engineering has created a mobile network connectivity system called Supercell that gives 15-65x the range and coverage of traditional mobile towers. They're publishing it as a standard for various players in the industry to use. Looks like cool tech. Now if they can just control the conspiracy theories on Facebook about how dangerous these things will be. More

Square is supposedly trying to buy Tidal. Coincidentally, I just got back into Tidal over the last couple of weeks. The app is way better than I remember, and I'm absolutely loving the MQA content, but that still leaves me no clue as to why Dorsey would try to acquire them. Twitter, Square, and a music service? I'm not hating or skeptical, just genuinely curious.


Korea set the new world record of a 20-second-long artificial sun running at 100 million degrees. In 'unfortunately probably not unrelated' news, a new paper from NASA's JPL says the other civilizations in the Milky Way probably killed themselves off through "progress". More More

The British Centre for Economics and Business Research says that China will pass the US in economic strength in 2028—which is 5 years earlier than previously forecasted—largely due to its superior handling of COVID. More

A study has found that people taking Acetaminophen (Tylenol) are more open to taking risks, such as bungee jumping or being outspoken in an important meeting. More

There is clear data on which majors make the most in industry, but very few students are aware of the data or following their advice. More

The Chinese producer of Netflix's 'The Three-Body Problem' series has been killed by poisoning. This series is being run by the producers of the Game of Thrones TV series. That's two bad omens for me. More

Salmon are spawning in the upper Columbia river for the first time in more than 80 years. More


3 Metrics That Will Indicate We're Taking Security Seriously — What would be the metrics we tracked if security was taken seriously within our society?. Essay

Whose Life Are You Living? — Are you living the life you imagined or the life that happened to you? Essay


I finished Anna Karenina. I'm not sure what to do from here. Are there forums where I go talk about my thoughts? Literature departments at colleges? Not sure how to process it. TL:DR: Deeply insightful about a certain kind of people that existed then, and that still exist in some places now. A bit depressing, with a glimmer of nebulous hope. Anyway, already on to the next one.

I started The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of essays by Douglas Adams.

I'm also starting Homeland, which is January's UL Book Club of the month.

I, unfortunately, watched the new Wonder Woman movie. It was horrendously bad. Like, unspeakably horrible. The plot was atrocious, the CGI was abysmal, and the acting just caved to peer pressure. I normally don't get bothered by bad movies, but I wanted a little gem to cap the year, and I really enjoyed the other WW movies. This one completely trashed what they had built. 1/10.

I'm re-adding the 'UL Supporter' designation to any product in the Discovery section that is supporting the show in any way. I explained why I didn't want to do this here, but I've decided to side with radical transparency over design aesthetic. My long-term audience gets me, but not everyone reading is part of that group. I think if it's ever a question, just side with transparency. So that's what I'm doing.


Social Analyzer — A local tool for finding a person profile across 300+ social media websites. More

Canary Tools — A high-signal and low-effort way to find out who's poking around your network without permission. More (UL Supporter)

Kenzer — Automated web asset enumeration and scanning. More

100 Tips for a Better Life More

There's a new version of the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, including a MASTER (MQA) version on Tidal. It's an expanded release, and in higher quality as well. More

Platforms, Bundling, and Killzones More

A realistic and healthy way to become a 10x developer. More

Ask HN: What's the best Paid Gmail Replacement? More


Make a commitment to call a couple of friends instead of just texting. Texting is great, and way better than nothing, but hearing each others' voices is a serious upgrade.


“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

~ Seneca