Just Turn the Dial: 3D Printed THERO Offers Digital Security

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It’s sort of fascinating to think back to the days when without question we just answered the phone (the yellow one hanging on the wall), usually with high hopes that it was a best friend or a certain someone that we had a crush on—often only to find that it was that crazy great-aunt calling again from out of state. You had to take your chances, with not even a caller ID to warn you. Back then, it was a big deal if one splurged on ‘call waiting.’ If you drove out of town, not all that long ago, you had to rely on one of those crazy maps from the gas station that only certain left-brain types know how to re-fold. Again, you had to take your chances and you could get lost, without Siri to set you back on track.

Today, we have nearly every convenience one can imagine at our fingertips—and if not, a genius somewhere is working on it. We can have most things instantly, and can turn communication on and off at will. The newer generations eschew the phone call altogether in lieu of texting, and we don’t have to travel a mile without a computerized voice telling us (it even knows our names!) which way to turn or how to re-route. We can carry on our lives—sometimes in a most efficient way—without leaving the house for days; in fact, we can control many of the electronic operations within our home while sitting on the couch half-engrossed in the latest Netflix episodes. And for that matter, when we do leave the house, we can still control them—whether to turn on our security systems or turn lights on or off.

With all the innovation available to us though, many of us have learned that we sacrifice the privacy we once used to have.  From marketing companies tracking us to hackers stealing our funds electronically, it’s hard to know where we are truly safe anymore.

We seem to be able to create and fix everything else, so why not get this cybersecurity problem nailed down once and for all too? That’s exactly what Román Torre and Angeles Angulo are working toward with the creation of THERO, a device that allows you to encrypt your internet activity just by turning the dial. If for some reason you want to be ‘tracked’ online, you can switch off THERO. Not only that, THERO will look pretty cool on your desk just as a modern sculpture.

“THERO as a concept seeks to elevate the precious and sacred object of our digital privacy. The treatment given to the resulting object is artistic at all times, with geometry and cleanliness reminiscent of an idol or talisman, which has a value above its material qualities. THERO conceptually contains the value of freedom and the right to digital privacy,” states Torre on his website. “This piece opens a space for reflection, forcing the user to be aware of their information traveling through the data traffic in a (literally) physical way, in reference to the object.”

“Basically, this piece is an access point in which we can connect all our devices, either directly through a cable connection or as an extension of the network wirelessly. Any flow that passes through it can be handled manually by the user simply, as explained above, by a rotating action of our hand on the lid of the object.”

Four different states of security are offered:

  1. Light security with internet access mostly open
  2. Total traffic encryption
  3. Encrypted websites and blocking of social media
  4. Complete ‘blackout’

“The way of using this device is a little bit mysterious, but it’s easy because you don’t need to know complicated hacks to use to preserve your privacy— no apps, no browser plugins, etc.,” says Torre. “You only need to move the interface to interact with this device.”

The team has created one prototype that uses both concrete and 3D printed components, with the other prototype being completely 3D printed. Torre and Angulo hope to see THERO available to the public soon commercially and as an open-source design as they continue development, having already won the Next Things 2016 research grant which will allow them to work in residence for several months at LABoral Centro de Arte and then three months in research and development for Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica. Discuss in the Thero forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Co.Design / Photos: Román Torre]

 

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