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What Is Net Neutrality?

If you've been anywhere on the internet in the last few months, you've doubtless seen that 'Net Neutrality' is the major hot-button topic of late '17. People from every country around the world are joining together to 'Keep the internet open' by sharing messages and contacting people in power to have their view heard. But why is this so important to most people around the world, when only a few major countries are going to affected by the changes?

The answer is simple; it's a slippery slope, and one that won't be easy to clamber back up. Changes to freedoms on the internet for any country set an established precedent for other countries to do the same, and if the USA changes these laws then it's only a matter of time before other countries do the same.

Net neutrality is a simple concept, and one that many people believe is just an unarguable, inherent fact of the internet; the freedom to visit any website freely. Now there are a few long-standing exceptions to this hard and fast rule, but those outliers are for public safety and legal reasons. For example, some websites aren't allowed in most countries as they are for illegal activities such as purchasing illegal drugs, or the services of an assassin on browsers like Tor using .onion instead of .com or similar. These sites are illegal for good purpose, and it is rarely argued that people should be allowed access to these sites. But, despite what some obfuscating people would like the public to believe, is not what net neutrality is about. Net neutrality is about keeping the full, legal internet available to anyone with an internet connection.

The analogy goes like this; say you pay a certain amount each month for a library card, because you like to use your local library. Now, you wouldn't expect to be able to rent a book on home bomb-making, because it's likely to be used for illegal criminal purposes. But say you wanted 3 novels from separate authors, and you got to the counter, scanned your card, and suddenly you can't rent them all. The librarian is a big fan of JK Rowling, and lets you take the book for free using your card. The second author is Stephen King, who she believes is too dark, but she lets you rent it anyway for an added charge. Now the third author, George Orwell, is one she ideologically detests, so she takes the copy of 1984 and does not let you have access to it. Now this is clearly unfair, because the librarian is imposing her own ideological beliefs on your choice of media, and is censoring the library.

This is exactly how Net Neutrality works; the library is replaced by the internet, and the librarian is replaced by your ISP. Neither the librarian or the ISP has any right to dictate what content anyone receives, as long as it's not the outlier illegal content for inciting hatred. But if the current laws on Net Neutrality get repealed in America, then the internet will no longer be a place for the free exchange of information and ideas that it is today, it will be a politically driven censorship of individuals and a direct violation of freedom of speech.

Imagine this; you live in one of the many areas of the world with only one service provider, and are already being strong-armed into paying through the teeth for internet access. There are no other options, if you want internet access, you go through the only choice. Not ideal, but you can deal with this, albeit reluctantly. But what if this service provider was one with varying interests, such as Virgin Media. If net neutrality is repealed, then Virgin could block access to competing websites, such as Sky News or holiday websites. This type of blatant censorship would become common worldwide, because strictly speaking, it makes sense business-wise. People have a choice, either censored internet or no internet, but that's not really much of a choice is it. Politically driven access to 'free media' is oxymoronic, and 1984 wouldn't be the first radical thing to be banned. It's bad enough that these ISPs are throttling data usage across the board without extra payments, but to censor the one place on Earth for truly free speech? 10 years ago this would have been laughed at, yet somehow it's happening.

Service providers have already been throttling people worldwide, do not let them choke us too. Keep our net free.

Rare Earth Elements And Tech

Rare Earth Elements are the chemistry class of 17 individual elements which, though not rare in a typical sense, only occur in reserves in a few key locations. These elements are used in almost all modern tech, from smartphones to computers to relays to servers. Touchscreens need indium tin oxide to function properly, and mark the change from pressure sensitive screens to true touchscreens.

These elements are all completely unique, and few have any possible substitute that could be used in their place. In the last 10 years there has been heavy scientific research around the world to find replacements for REEs, but with no avail. The unique properties of each element mean that if resources simply vanished, then there would be nothing able to take their place. If indium tin oxide was no longer available, no more touchscreens, and modern smartphones would become a thing of the past.

With the worldwide geological distribution of REEs, there are a few main reserves which can be accessed. The first major one was in Sweden, and 4 of the REEs are named after this place. Reserves here aren't massive, but because Sweden is part of the EU, they put these resources out to the global market at a very fair price. This was great for people worldwide, as it allowed everyone greater access to technology, but what happens when a country doesn't want to export these metals?

The main historic example of this would be China, which produces a monumental amount of REEs, topping the market at over 95% of the worlds production. The massive new demand for these elements means that large scale, open cast mining operations are now viable in China, and they are developing a stockpile of these commodities. But this came with a massive risk to the rest of the world, what if China simply stopped trading? They would grow as a technological superpower, while the rest of the world would fall to the wayside. This is exactly what they tried to do with their 2009 export decrease. By monopolizing the market for these crucial resources, then lowering supply, they increased the value and rarity, greatly increasing their net worth, albeit with a strain on international relations.

The Chinese trend of lowering export volume continued year after year, with a 30% drop in 2010 and a further 10% drop in 2011. 2012 saw a 20% drop in export volumes, while their mining operations continued uninhibited. For obvious reasons, the rest of the world did not enjoy these price hikes, and technology companies across the globe suffered. Finally, in 2014, US President Obama appealed to the WTO to reconsider the Fair Trade Agreement, and managed to fix export amounts so the whole world could enjoy better access to technology. But this brings up an interesting point; what would happen if a war were to occur?

If the global super-reserve of Rare Earth Elements suddenly stopped exporting its goods, then how would the rest of the world cope? Technology would quickly become much more expensive again, with fewer and fewer companies able to mass produce computers and smartphones. Most countries are already worried about this, and are stockpiling REEs just incase, but that does not fix the problem, only delay it. You can get a small amount of REEs from recycling, but for mass producing tech? These resources will run out.

It's estimated that our current known resources will last another 50 years before production grinds to a halt. But what are the alternatives? After this, you will have to mine in places nobody wants people to mine. The Amazon forest, the nature reserves around Mongolia, the Alaskan Oceans; all important ecological features to be preserved, but at the cost of people having computers in their pockets instead of the size of rooms? Only time will tell.

How To Protect Mobile Devices And Smart Phones

With the advancement of mobile technology and smartphones, the mobile device has become an integral part of everyday life for most people.

These devices are in fact a powerful computer, and in some cases even more powerful those desktop computers and they need to be protected against cyber threats the same way you need to protect your desktop.

Some of the basic levels of protection needed to desktops apply also to mobile devices. This includes some of the following:-

* Make sure you have safeguarded access controls- where possible use biometrics.

* To prevent data loss use an encryption key for added security

* In the event that your device is lost, install remote find and wipe tools, to prevent unauthorised access.

* Make sure that your operating system, and any other security software installed is up-to-date. As manufacturers and App developers become aware of the cyber threats, their in- house developers are able to provide patches to their software to stop the hackers gaining access, make sure all patches and updates are installed.

* Make sure you only install Apps from a trusted source; refrain from downloading Apps from unfamiliar sites.

* Make sure that any permission requests from Apps are legitimate; do not allow access from any unfamiliar or unused App.

* Dont jailbreak devices, iOS devices can have their operating systems manipulated make sure your iOS operating system is updated.

* Make sure Apps updated to the most recent version.

* If suspicious App is identified, delete it immediately.

* Change passwords regularly, especially Apple ID, Google Play and any third party App stores.

* If you receive any suspicious or unfamiliar emails it would be prudent to delete these emails.

* Make sure that all company data is protected by implementing a secure online backup policy.

* If a patch is needed for any software, make sure you proceed with great caution when using your internet browser, or any such internet activity until the update is performed.

* If you have an Android device, make sure all update are performed as soon as received from your software provider.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive set of actions to help protect your mobile device from a cyber-attack, make sure you apply these procedures to help protect your personal data from being compromised.

In the years to come it is expected that cyber-attacks on mobile devices will become more and more attractive to the internet hackers. Most of the manufacturers are working hard to secure their platforms and operating systems. One area that the manufacturers are really trying to improve within mobile technology is the validation and sign in procedures. This will allow the systems to be compromised less easily.