Unsupervised Learning Newsletter No. 266

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. 

MEMBER EDITION | Ep/ 266 | Monday, 1 February 2021


Bill Evanina, recently the top counterintelligence official in the US, who has worked in both the CIA and FBI says the current estimate is that the Chinese Communist Party has the PII of 80% of US adults. He says they're now going after massive troves of American DNA data as well so they can beat us to profitable drugs and who knows what else. More

Chris DeRusha, who was previously the top cybersecurity professional protecting Biden's campaign, is now the Federal CISO. More

Homeland Security says the US is facing higher risk of terrorism from Domestic Violent Extremists (DVE's), who they say are motivated by COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force. More

A new version of Samy Kamkar's NAT Slipstreaming (2.0) is able to expose all internal devices to the internet just by having them click a malicious link. More

Researchers have built a tool called Exposing.AI that lets you search to see if your photos are being used to train facial recognition algorithms. The tool looks across multiple collections to see if your images are part of the datasets. More

Birdwatch is a way for people to add notes to the text in tweets to add context for other views of that tweet. The goal is to combat misinformation using crowdsourcing. It's currently being piloted. More

The Pentagon is considering using US troops to add speed to American vaccination efforts. They're thinking about using around 100 massive, federally-run vaccination centers around the country. More

The US is being given more access in Saudi Arabian airfields and ports to improve its ability to respond to Iran. More


Spotify was just awarded a patent that will let them listen to users' audio environment to determine their emotional state, demographics, and even location. The idea is to be able to guess the best possible music to play, even without being told explicitly. I talked about this in my book, but there I was talking about this kind of feature being mediated by a trusted assistant, not just run randomly by the services we use. More

Someone used GPT-3 to partially automate their database admin job, including this amazing example of asking GPT-3 a question and having it give back valid SQL that answers it. More

Twitter has acquired newsletter service Revue. Everyone's getting into newsletters and podcasts now. More

There appears to be a major trend in SaaS companies moving from subscription to usage-based pricing ($). Investors evidently like it because it indicates that the product is actually being used as opposed to purchased and dropped. More

Atlanta has been heating up as a startup hub, with funding hitting a 5-year high in 2020. More


There has been a coup in Myanmar, and the country is now under military control with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi being held in custody. More

GM has put the industry on notice by announcing they won't be making gas-powered vehicles after 2035. So while everyone has been talking about a slow phasing process, they're saying they're teleporting to their target in just 15 years. More

Overall car sales dropped 20% in 2020, but electric car sales rose by 43%. More

US new home sales increased by 18.8% in 2020. More

Dual-income earners making a total of $200,000/year can only afford 12% of homes in San Jose, CA. More


30 Books I'll Re-Read For the Rest of My Life — I went through my Kindle and Audible libraries for the last few years and pulled out the titles I know I'll keep re-reading. I thought I'd find around 10, I but ended up with 30. More

A More Positive Take on America's Potential Fall — This new essay is political, but it isn't partisan, and it's definitely about security. Specifically, the security and stability of the US. It talks about a completely different way of looking at the fall of the US, i.e., as a standard pattern that happens when certain conditions combine rather than some personal attack on our country. Kind of like describing life and death in a show about astronomy. More

Brag About Your Content, Not Your Tools — A short piece on why you should look at someone's output and contributions before ridiculing their toolsets. More

A TomNomNom Recon Tools Primer — A primer on 6 of my favorite recon tools created by @TomNomNom in the bounty/recon community. More

Wait, Are UFOs Real? — I don't know about you, but I'm having my skepticism shaken a bit on UFOs. Not completely, because I've not really taken the time to actually dive in and look at the evidence. But what I have got recently is a sense that the whole scene might actually have something underneath it. Most of this has come from stories of government groups doing serious programs based on tech that they've acquired somewhere. Again, this could all still be total garbage, but I never thought I could be this close to taking any of this seriously. If someone in the UL community could weigh in on whether there's a there there, I'd really appreciate it. More

The Chinese Lab COVID Conspiracy — Kind of similar to the UFO stuff, but not really, are all the rumors about whether COVID came from a Chinese lab. We talked about this today in the UL Book Club. The way I see this situation is that we are lacking real conversation around this because it's a taboo subject. It's taboo because even mentioning it is highly adjacent to actual conspiracy theories, like being anti-vax, or being super racist and blaming COVID on anyone who looks Asian in the US. Because of that stupidity, nobody wants to have a rational conversation about COVID and lab testing in China. The way I see it, there appear to actually be labs that work on modifying Coronavirus to make it more deadly, and they have actually had issues with some getting out before. So, strictly speaking, this is a topic worth exploring. The problem is that nobody is having the conversation the right way, at least that I've seen. The way to do this is to get all the experts on this into a room and review the evidence, and to have experts give odds based on their opinions—like in the book Superforecasters. But instead, we have random podcasters screaming that it's either a conspiracy that's being covered up or it's obviously false, which doesn't help anyone. Personally, it wouldn't surprise me at all if this didn't come out of a lab at all, if it accidentally came out of a lab, or if China "accidentally" did it on purpose to harm the world's economy relative to their own (because they knew they could get control faster than the rest of the planet). The weaponization option seems the lowest chance, the natural occurrence seems the highest chance by far (over 95%?), and the accidental release seems somewhere in the middle. But that's just my analysis as a non-expert who hasn't studied the evidence closely. What you need to do is get a collection of experts together and have them do the same type of review. More


I'm looking for additional products or services to include in the Discovery section. Basically, the standard is something that you just absolutely love and few people know about. For me it's my EDC razor knife I've talked about before. Or CrowdSec. Or your firewall you've used since 2005. Or a wine recommendation app. Or your favorite minimalist wallet. Or whatever. If you have a favorite item we should highlight in Discovery, please let me know via email or in our member Slack. Thanks!

We still have around 22 of you who are receiving the odd (public) newsletter but not the subscriber one (even numbers). I'm still troubleshooting this with Mailchimp and Memberful, who are currently doing a Spiderman meme. Hopefully I'll have it solved soon, but in the meantime, you can also get the latest member episode at danielmiessler.com/members.


CrowdSec Primer — CrowdSec (a modern Fail2Ban replacement) has published a new getting started guide that takes you from install to blocking malicious traffic. [SUP] More

The Great Unbundling — Ben Evans' annual presentation on tech trends. This is not to be missed. More

Intercepting SSM communications. More

The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction More

A Starlink Satellite Tracker More

A Twitter thread on tunneling and port-forwarding. More

Cory Doctorow on Intellectual Property. More

A Twitter thread explaining the Reddit Short Squeeze. More


Here's how to safe-list this newsletter or (any other newsletter) to make sure it doesn't get flagged/moved within various email clients. More


“The future is purchased by the present.”

~ Samuel Johnson