TechKNOW Tomorrow – The Beginning of Digital Currency

Image by Bermix Studio via Unsplash.

Last year, Facebook revealed their plans to release a digital currency called Libra. Now that it’s 2021, that currency is set be released at some point this year.

That announcement had some ramifications, unfortunately. Other countries such as China have accelerated their work on their own digital currencies, a race to be the first to release what many expect to be a revolutionary technology.

When a digital currency is released here in North America, physical currencies – bills and change – will slowly be phased out like the penny was many years ago. The U.S. already has a disproportionate amount of power over the global economy. With the removal of physical currency, several issues will inevitably arise.

What About Cryptocurrency?

An argument might be made that digital currencies already exist, so this might not seem like a big deal at all. That’s not exactly true. A digital currency is not the same thing as virtual currency or cryptocurrency. Virtual currency “is a digital representation of value, not issued by a central bank, credit institution or e-money institution, which, in some circumstances, can be used as an alternative to money”. Virtual currencies have no physical means, making them difficult to quantify.

This differs from banks, debit, or credit in that the money you spend has something represent it in the real world. When you spend money on your credit card, for instance, you have to pay that back (with interest). A dollar in your bank account shares the exact same value as a physical dollar.

This is not true for cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin fluctuate dramatically in terms of value, meaning the value they hold isn’t based on the value of a physical dollar. A Bitcoin can be worth thousands of dollars one day… and then next to nothing the next.

Image by Kyle Wiseman via Google.

On top of this, digital currency “is regulated in a centralized location, like a bank. Cryptocurrencies … are governed by the majority of the community”.

The information behind transactions are kept private with digital currencies or cash. Think about it – no one knows where the cash in your hand has been spent in the past. With cryptocurrencies, none of this information is hidden. Anyone can see every transaction made or received.

There’s also less safety involved with these forms of currency. If you have problems with a seller, who are you going to contact to deal with the issue? There’s little chance of getting your money back.

As long as cryptocurrencies are managed by everyone, there will never be a set value and your money will never truly be secure.

Issues with Digital Currencies

Okay, so what’s the big deal with digital currencies, then?, you might be thinking. If they’re regulated and private, doesn’t that mean they’re still safe to use to exchange goods and services? Not quite.

One of the main concerns with digital currencies is that they require an intermediary to perform transactions. This means that your transactions will be even less private than they are through debit or credit. Every transaction you make will be traceable, meaning economic privacy will be next to impossible.

Another issue is in control and the issue of business over government. If a digital currency is launched by Facebook or a similar tech company, a company entirely focused on commercial interests (earning money), elected governments could face instability and drastic changes in policy.

If a currency is controlled by a company instead of the government, how do we know that the various programs created will be in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of shareholders? Free education and hospital visits are things we take for granted.

Without government control over the currency, we could start seeing basic human rights becoming monopolized into expensive services. We’ve already experienced this in university and prescription costs. Privatized control of these industries could potentially lead to increased social inequalities.

Of course, it could be many years before we see physical currencies phased out of existence. For now, we can only speculate on the future of the economy.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Unhackable Internet Is on the Way

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We’ve seen it countless times in the TV shows and movies that we watch: someone with a hood covering their face types rapidly on a keyboard and random code appears on their green computer screen. It looks like gibberish to most of us. The person hits one final key – “Enter”. Suddenly, they’ve successfully hacked into one of the government’s most secure systems (e.g., the NSA or the FBI), causing death and destruction through cyberterrorism.

Hollywood has a way of romanticizing or glorifying the reality of hacking. The process is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds and happens far less often than you’d expect. Governments employ software engineers – or “hackers” – to protect their mainframes from potential cyberattacks.

The majority of criminal cyberattacks, then, actually involve the average home computer, not advanced government systems. Inexperienced users who go to places like the dark web are those at the highest risk of being hacked.

Sounds scary, right? What if there was a form of internet that was virtually unhackable?

The Quantum Internet

While the internet is generally safe due to the process of encryption that many websites go through, there’s a point where they might be open to potential hacks. As information is transmitted between computers and servers, there’s a point where it can be intercepted. If there are any noticeable vulnerabilities in the code, a hacker can exploit them and invade a user’s system.

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Over the last couple of years, there have been plans to create internet that transmits so fast, it’s virtually impossible to hack. This is because it travels faster than the speed of light! Through a process called quantum superposition, a particle can exist in two different states at once, creating tighter security.

Of course, it’s not quite ready for the public yet. This is because quantum internet would require a great deal of network equipment in place. Our current infrastructure isn’t compatible with quantum internet, meaning it will have to practically be developed from scratch, unfortunately.

Where It’ll Exist and When Will It Be Ready?

Researchers in the Netherlands are currently building a network that will connect four cities in the Netherlands exclusively with quantum technology. The tech will rely on a process called quantum entanglement in which the photons that transfer data “can’t be covertly read without disrupting their content”. This could mean that quantum internet will be available throughout several areas of Europe in the near future.

China has also recently finished a quantum internet project stretching from Beijing to Shanghai, though it doesn’t exclusively use quantum tech. That means while cyberattacks are a lot less likely, there are still some vulnerabilties that attentive hackers will eventually be able to exploit. China may be working towards true quantum internet soon, however.

Other countries have already developed strategies that they hope to receive funding for. The United States Department of Energy (DOE), for instance, “lay[ed] out a blueprint strategy for the development of a national quantum internet” at a press conference that took place at the University of Chicago.

Similarly, Canada is working on its own research into quantum internet using infrastructure from space launches which will cover a larger radius than on land. Professor Thomas Jennewein of the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) is leading a project that will have a network transmit a signal to a microsatellite, which is then transmitted to another microsatellite over a long distance, and finally to the second network.

Image by NASA via Unsplash.

Any “attack, manipulation, or copying of the photons can be immediately detected and overcome”, meaning user data will safely be able to travel distances up to 200 km. It will supposedly even be able to transfer over hostile territory without any risk!

This news comes with a significant but – we will be waiting at least five years before seeing any of this implemented worldwide. And when it finally comes to market, governments will definitely have access to it first. For the rest of us, we might be waiting a long time before quantum internet arrives and we can feel entirely safe with our online activity.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Stay Safe with Smart Deadbolts

Image by Jaye Haych via Unsplash.

The world we currently live in is practically unrecognizable. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen how people become stir-crazy from social isolation. There’s been an increase in break-ins happening across Canada.

In Ontario, “Hamilton police say there has been a 131 per cent increase in the number of commercial break and enters during the COVID-19 pandemic”. In Vancouver, B.C., business break-ins are up by 567%, robbery is up by 56%, and auto theft has increased by 42%.

So how do we keep safe during this tumultuous time? Smart locks. As the expression goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Smart Locks

Picture this: you’re on the way home from work, but you’ve lost your house key while you went shopping. They’re expensive to replace, and it ultimately leaves you feeling vulnerable to the world outside. Someone out there has your key. What do you do? Replace the lock?

There’s a better solution. Recently, smart locks have become all the rage. They are usually incredibly safe, a tough encryption technique preventing would-be hackers from guessing your code. They feature multiple modes of entry, so a physical key is not necessary.

Many smart locks include an app for your phone, which allows you to open it with a voice command, a numeric pad, or even the app itself. Some of them even have video doorbells as an additional feature to capture anyone shady outside your door or to video chat safely.

That said, smart locks have some drawbacks. Not all smart locks work with your phone’s app, some of them are a nuisance to install, and they operate on batteries that can die. Most importantly, many devices are still pretty expensive at the moment. The Lockly Vision is a costly $400 USD at the moment, while the August Wifi Smart Lock runs for about $250 USD, so it might be best to wait for a sale if you’re interested. You can buy ones for under $100 CAD, but it’s difficult to say how reliable they are.

The Bosma Aegis and Sentry

Over the last few months, a company called Bosma announced and started funding two new products: the Aegis smart lock and the Sentry video doorbell. Together, these items were being sold for just over $200 CAD, which will likely increase a bit once they hit store shelves.

The Aegis takes your average smart lock and blows it out of the water, which is exciting for the future of door-related tech. The smart lock alerts the homeowner if the door is left ajar or if it’s broken into. The device even automatically locks if you forget to lock your door manually or unlocks once you arrive home.

No app is required for close friends that are watching your cats while you’re on vacation. It’s encrypted, so it’s sure to be safe, and connects to your Alexa and Google devices if you own them.

The Sentry is equally awesome. It captures would-be thieves on camera, notifies you when packages arrive at your doorstep, allows you to speak with whoever is outside, and recognizes faces and fingerprints that you program into it.

If this sounds a little too good to be true, it’s because testing is still in its early stages and there are likely some kinks that need to be worked out. Before purchasing any smart lock product, always do your research beforehand; these devices aren’t exactly cheap! What they are is incredibly cool and futuristic, a science fiction novel come true. We live in a fantastic, technology-driven world.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.