Unsupervised Learning: No. 161


Unsupervised Learning is my weekly show where I spend 5-20 hours finding the most interesting stories in security, technology, and humans, which I then curate into a 30-minute podcast & companion newsletter.

The goal is to catch you up on current events, show you the best content from around the web, and hopefully give you something to think about as well.

?️ Security NewsThe U.S. and other western countries are selling surveillance technology to authoritarian countries they know will use them for harm. This is very much like exporting weapons in the past—which became illegal for this exact reason. Fundamentally, surveillance technology and weapons are both control mechanisms, and that is how the spirit of the law should characterize them. Whether you’re selling missiles or facial recognition technology, the goal is the same—giving certain governments the ability to maintain control of their populations while not giving it to others. That’s a policy decision based on who you want to see win, with the added element of likely being willing to sell to most anyone if the money is exorbitant enough. My takeaway: we should be thinking of these surveillance and monitoring technologies as no different than other types of weapons, and should be very cautious about who we’re enabling to squelch their own people. LinkThe president of the United States evidently wants to pull the United States out of NATO, which would be the epitome of Putin’s goals. And we have no way to know if Putin actually directed this action in person, since our president also demanded that records of their face-to-face conversations be destroyed. Like I’ve said before: we’re living in an actual spy novel.Someone broke into an SEC database and made millions selling stocks based on insider information. This database had future filings, called “test filings” that included upcoming mergers, acquisitions, and other key information that gave the attackers an advantage in trading. They made around $4 million dollars with the information. LinkThe Pentagon has released a major report plainly stating that climate change is a threat to the security of the United States. It details the various effects that come from climate change, and how they will affect our various bases and capabilities. LinkA California judge has ruled that authorities cannot force suspects to unlock their mobile devices using biometrics. The argument was that it would violate Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Sounds logical to me. LinkA province in China is launching a WeChat app that shows you people (including their personal information and national ID number) within 500 meters that owe money. Why? So you can shame them. It’s part of the overall Chinese social credit system that punishes bad behavior and rewards good behavior—with the definitions of good and bad being defined by the government, of course. It’s like China took Black Mirror and 1984 and used them as architecture documents. LinkRussia is evidently using LinkedIn as a tool for information gathering on U.S. people of interest. This isn’t surprising to me, as we’ve also seen China doing the same thing. It’s not so much that it’s LinkedIn as that it’s a place where important people maintain updated and detailed information about themselves. If you’re a potential target of any kind of corporate or other types of espionage, keep in mind that your LinkedIn profile can reveal a lot about you, and that it’s already being used by two of our main adversaries. LinkThere is significant evidence that North Korea’s bio-weapons program is active and thriving, and many think their danger from biological weapons is greater than from nuclear. LinkGoogle has been fined $44 million dollars for violations of GDPR by a French company claiming that Google didn’t sufficiently provide information on the data it collected as part of its ads program. LinkThe Girl Scouts now have a Cybersecurity badge, which is a move designed to get more girls interested in STEM. Love it. LinkAdvisories: BlueHostLeaks: BlackRock Advisor Data, FBI Data (3TB)⚙️ Technology NewsNetflix is raising its prices. 8->9. 11->13. 14->16. LinkGoogle is closing Hangouts in 2020. This solidifies a clear lesson I’ve picked up over the last several years: Don’t adopt new Google products. They either have abysmal UIs (have you seen GMail lately), or are basically run like half-baked experiments doomed to be shut down in couple of years (or both). Google Reader was amazing, but they killed that too. At this point they just seem to have an R&D team that throws out ideas. Then they go build it with the same ridiculous interface that lead to the downfall of all the other products, do a big announcement, and then they watch it die for a few years before they discontinue it. It’s remarkable how predictable it is. LinkGoogle is buying Fossil’s smartwatch technology, which feels to me like they’re launching the next version of Google+. LinkGoogle is rolling out Material Design on Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites. I give Google a lot of crap, but I’m glad to see them consolidating their interface, and I think Material is the best thing they’ve made so far. LinkCERN is looking to build a new collider that’s four times the size (and 10 times the power) of the LHC. LinkNetflix says they get beat in ratings by Fortnite more than by HBO. LinkDJI—the leading drone manufacturer out of Shenzen China—has fired dozens of employees for fraud and said that the damage they did will result in around $150 million in losses for the company. They were evidently inflating the cost of parts and taking the extra for themselves. Link??  Human NewsAmericans are now more likely to die of opiates than in a car accident. LinkChina is experiencing its slowest growth in 28 years, which is having an economic impact around the world. The good news is that while their exports are slowing, their consumption is increasing, which helps other countries providing services to their new upper classes. LinkThere’s an interesting breathing technique that’s talked about in this article: breathing in for 5 seconds, and breathing out for 5 seconds—for 5 minutes. Link 60% of the world’s coffee plants are very close to extinction. This is one crisis I’m not too worried about actually, because if it actually starts causing a drop in coffee availability the whole world will basically react overnight to fix the problem. Climate change? Meh—probably a hoax, they say. But threaten their daily coffee and we’ll go to space and build a new planet from scratch designed for nothing but growing coffee. LinkChina has a massive number of empty homes (20%, or 55 million), and if people figure this out and realize it means prices are inflated, it could lead to a massive selloff that seriously damages the Chinese economy. LinkNever forget that 50 years ago the sugar industry paid scientists to blame fat, which has helped cause an epidemic in obesity today. If you want to find evil, look for quiet influencers with lots of money who whisper into the ears of people we trust (see lobbyists). LinkChina has confirmed the birth of two gene-edited babies, and the presence of another woman who’s still pregnant with another. The scientist who ran the study is in Chinese custody for violating regulations. I can’t help but think that if the kids die or make China look bad he’ll be punished, but if they start shooting lasers out of their eyes or learn Calculus before age 3 the guy will be a national hero. Link“Between 1983 and 2016, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after inflation, compared to a 33% increase for the median White household. The median Black family today owns $3,600 — just 2% of the wealth of the median White family. The median Latino family owns $6,600 — just 4% of the median White family.” Link? Ideas, Trends, & AnalysisThose Bashing Smart Locks Have Forgotten How Easy It is to Pick Regular Ones — In this essay I do a basic threat model on smart locks using various target neighborhoods and attacker types. LinkMy favorite simplified definition for Artificial Intelligence is: “Any technology that can do what previously could only be done by humans.” This neatly incorporates the whole range of what we think of as AI—from facial recognition, to cancer diagnosis, to an AGI like Her or Skynet. So it doesn’t matter how trivial or specialized it is—if it could previously only be done by Homo Sapiens (and not any other kind of tech), then it qualifies as AI for most practical purposes.In a spot of good news, book sales are up, and physical books are doing really well. In the U.S., independent bookstores grew by 35% between 2009 and 2015. Link? DiscoveryThe best-selling fiction books of all time. LinkThe FBI’s full file on MLK Link? a16z’s Joel de la Garza’s Notes on Security in 2019 LinkThis is an ICS Security Assessment Scorecard. LinkHyperScience is a startup that makes human-readable data and makes it machine-readable. This is how AI replaces jobs. It’s not through Skynet—it’s hitting a tipping point regarding hundreds of monotonous tasks that previously could only be done by humans. LinkA visualization of which rappers had the largest vocabularies. LinkHow to detect hidden cameras and spy gear. LinkA Bash Scripting Cheatsheet LinkPortPush — A Bash utility for pivoting inside a compromised network. LinkDomained — A multi-source domain enumeration tool with EyeWitness integration. Link? Notes? Major announcement this week: I am now going to be doing a podcast for every episode—both member versions and regular versions. I was previously only doing every other week, but now every member episode will have a podcast with it as well. The podcast will be embedded in the blog post for each member episode, since I have no way of doing authentication in a regular podcast feed. Here’s last week’s member episode as an example, complete with its own accompanying podcast. Now subscribers can get the content every week either by newsletter or via audio! LinkFollow me on Feedly FollowDo me a favor and go rate the podcast for me on iTunes. LinkCurrently Reading: This Will Make You SmarterUp Next to Read: Industry of Anonymity, The Master Switch, The Daily Stoic?️ RecommendationsThis is a portable, fold-out solar energy charging system that can be used to charge electronics via USB, or even a car battery. LinkA Security and Privacy checklist. Great for friends and family not in security or tech. LinkAphorism“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.”~ Anthony Hopkins

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