Recovering from the SolarWinds hack could take 18 months



Brandon Wales, the acting director of CISA, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, says that it will be well into 2022 before officials have fully secured the government networks compromised by Russian hackers. The list includes at least nine federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Even fully understanding the extent of the damage will take months.

“I wouldn’t call this simple,” Wales says. “There are two phases for response to this incident. There is the short-term remediation effort, where we look to remove the adversary from the network, shutting down accounts they control, and shutting down entry points the adversary used to access networks. But given the amount of time they were inside these networks—months—strategic recovery will take time.”

Author(s): Patrick Howell O’Neill

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: MIT Technology Review

A Letter Sealed for Centuries Has Been Read—Without Even Opening It



The “virtual unfolding” of the letter—the culmination of a four-year project described in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications—points to a new line of historical research into the centuries-old practice of letterlocking. That’s the term used to describe the use of origami-like folds to hide the content of letters before envelopes came into wide use in the mid-1800s.

“This is a dream come true in the field of conservation,” said Jana Dambrogio, the conservator at the research library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of 11 authors of the paper.

Experts say the technique used to reveal the text of the letter, which includes a type of imaging called X-ray microtomography, could also have applications in healthcare and engineering.

Author(s): Sara Castellanos

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Former SolarWinds CEO blames intern for ‘solarwinds123’ password leak



Current and former top executives at SolarWinds are blaming a company intern for a critical lapse in password security that apparently went undiagnosed for years.

The password in question, “solarwinds123,” was discovered in 2019 on the public internet by an independent security researcher who warned the company that the leak had exposed a SolarWinds file server.

Several US lawmakers ripped into SolarWinds for the password issue Friday, in a joint hearing by the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees.

“I’ve got a stronger password than ‘solarwinds123’ to stop my kids from watching too much YouTube on their iPad,” said Rep. Katie Porter. “You and your company were supposed to be preventing the Russians from reading Defense Department emails!”

Author(s): Brian Fung and Geneva Sands

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: CNN

Analyzing Census Data in Excel



Excel is a very popular tool among all data users. It can be leveraged to unlock the value of open data of all kinds, and it is particularly well-suited to transforming, analyzing, and visualizing Census data. This course will show how to use Excel to access, manipulate, and visualize Census data.  It will also tools for doing advanced statistical analysis.

After completing this course, you will be able to:
    ✓    Access data from the Census Bureau using the American FactFinder
    ✓    Format tables for data analysis
    ✓    Perform basic and advanced analysis of Census data using Excel
    ✓    Create data visualizations such as sparklines, hierarchical charts, and histograms

Author(s): Andy Hecktman, Alexandra Barker

Date Accessed: 27 February 2021

Publication Site: U.S. Census Bureau

The R Inferno



Abstract: If you are using R and you think you’re in hell, this is a map for


I wandered through

To state the good I found there, I’ll also say what else I saw.

Having abandoned the true way, I fell into a deep sleep and awoke in a deep dark wood. I set out to escape the wood, but my path was blocked by a lion. As I fled to lower ground, a figure appeared before me. “Have mercy on me, whatever you are,” I cried, “whether shade or living human.”

Author(s): Patrick Burns

Publication Date: 30 April 2011

Publication Site: Burns Statistics

Lawmaker Proposes to Ban AI and Its Discriminatory Impact



The Washington state Legislature, which has proposed legislation in the past to tackle issues such as data privacy and the use of facial recognition tech, is now reviewing a bill that would regulate the use of “automated decision systems” and AI technology within state government.

According to the bill, these systems use algorithms to analyze data to help make or support decisions that could result in discrimination against different groups or make decisions that could negatively impact constitutional or legal rights.

As a result, Senate Bill 5116 aims to regulate these systems to prevent discrimination and ban government agencies from using AI tech to profile individuals in public areas.


Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Citi Can’t Have Its $900 Million Back



I wonder how many Highly Regulated Excel Spreadsheets there are in the financial industry. Thousands, surely. There you are, doing your job, in your Highly Regulated Excel Spreadsheet. And you get some result you don’t like and you say, well, I dunno, I’ll just multiply everything by 1.02, that seems fine. And then years later regulators are like, no no no, that was a Highly Regulated Excel Spreadsheet, the column labels were sacrosanct, you can’t just type whatever you want there. But of course you could just type whatever you wanted there, because it was in Excel and that’s how Excel works.

Author(s): Matt Levine

Publication Date: 17 February 2021

Publication Site: Bloomberg

North Korea Reportedly Tried to Hack Pfizer Servers to Steal Coronavirus Vaccine



North Korea, along with the usual suspects of Russia and China, have all been accused of trying to swipe vaccine data from pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and others. “Although it claims to be free of the virus, North Korea has requested coronavirus vaccines and is set to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, according to the Gavi Alliance, part of the United Nations-backed Covax effort which aims to deliver vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people,” the Washington Post reports. “The statement by South Korean officials is the latest in a string of accusations against North Korean hackers for attempting to steal vaccine technology, highlighting Pyongyang’s ongoing campaign to obtain sensitive information through nefarious means and its growing cyber capabilities.”

Author(s): Elliot Hannon

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: Slate

Improving on perfection — where next for the spreadsheet?




The sheer versatility and accessibility of the spreadsheet has made it the Swiss Army Knife of modern day productivity, inserting itself into almost every workflow across every industry. Over the past three decades, spreadsheets have become the de facto way for information to be collected, distributed and analysed.

But, as our operational and computational needs become ever greater, the limits of Excel become clear, and opportunities emerge for companies and tools to replace the spreadsheet.

Author(s): Dawn Capital

Publication Date: 16 December 2021

Publication Site: Medium

Spreadsheet Wars: Excel vs Lotus 1-2-3



Excel now dominates the spreadsheet world, but once upon a time there was actual competition among spreadsheet products. This program looks at Quattro 1.0, Allways 1.0, Lotus 1-2-3 3.0, Ashton-Tate’s Full Impact, and Excel 2.1. Guests include Gary Kildall, Jan Lewis, and Jared Taylor of PC Magazine. Originally broadcast in 1988.

Author(s): PBS – Computer Chronicles


Publication Date: 1988

Publication Site: PBS at

When Adobe Stopped Flash Content From Running It Also Stopped A Chinese Railroad



Adobe’s Flash, the web browser plug-in that powered so very many crappy games, confusing interfaces, and animated icons of the early web like Homestar Runneris now finally gone, after a long, slow, protracted death. For most of us, this just means that some goofy webgame you searched for out of misplaced nostalgia will no longer run. For a select few in China, though, the death of Flash meant being late to work, because the city of Dalian in northern China was running their railroad system on it.Yes, a railroad, run on Flash, the same thing used to run “free online casinos” and knockoff Breakout games in mortgage re-fi ads.


The railroad’s technicians did get everything back up and running, but the way they did this is fascinating, too. They didn’t switch the rail management system to some other, more modern codebase or software installation; instead, they installed a pirated version of Flash that was still operational. The knockoff version seems to be known as “Ghost Version.”

Author(s): Jason Torchinsky

Publication Date: 22 January 2021

Publication Site: Jalopnik