#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 14°C Wednesday 29 June 2022

Why these three people gave up their jobs to make this tiny privacy device

Invizbox is hoping its second product, a mobile privacy box, will make a splash in the consumer market.

CONSIDERING HOW BIG a topic it’s become in recent years, it’s no surprise that more companies are focusing on privacy as their main selling point.

From that, a subsection of companies now focus on privacy hardware, devices that connect to your WiFi and add an extra layer of privacy without the need to install or maintain software. It’s an area that has no clear leader at the moment, and there are many companies out there trying to gain a foothold in the area.

One of those is Invizbox, a Skerries-based company that is working on its second device. The original device, which started out life as an IndieGoGo campaign late last year, was developed by three people, Paul Canavan, Chris Monks and Elizabeth Canavan, in their spare time.

It sold over a thousand units overall, a modest number by any means, but it was enough to convince the team to take the risk and quit their current jobs and make it a full-time project (It only registered as a limited company earlier this year).

Now the same three are hoping to do the same through Kickstarter with Invizbox Go, a mobile version of its original product that is about the size of an average smartphone and would keep you safe when connected to unsecure WiFi networks like public hotspots.

The same principle as the original applies, you connect to it like you would your normal WiFi, but it’s promising a number other features including Tor browsing, VPN access (virtual private network which offers a secure way of connecting to the internet and prevents snooping), and the ability to convert all HTTP web requests into encrypted HTTPS connections where possible. It also doubles up as a recharger for your phone or tablet.

The team has years of experience working in both mobile security and Linux and while the device is manufactured in China, the firmware (the software programmed on a hardware device) is developed in Skerries.

Source: Paul Canavan/Vimeo

While that sounds great, the initial fear would be the team trying to squeeze in too many features and falling short, especially since it has a small team. When asked about this, Canavan is confident they had the expertise to make it work since they have both the expertise and the knowledge from the first Invizbox to push the new version forward (they have yet to get a single return from anyone who bought the first device).

[With the original Invizbox] from conception to first delivery, it took about five or six months”, said Canavan. We’re confident that we’re able to deliver all of these things. The things we gained from the first one showed us how much we could build in a short space of time.”

To cater for all possible users, the team is designing two different interfaces for the product. The first is for those who like to dive into the code and customise it to their own requirements – that’s down to its open-source nature, an advantage it has over other competitors as savvy users can decide what the balance is between speed and security.

The other interface is tailored to the less savvy user, the one that Canavan says he hopes “his mother would be able to use”, but the focus is to make it as simple and easy to use as possible so that anyone can use it.

Part of the success of the original Invizbox was another controversy that blew up shortly before its campaign started. Anonabox was a similar Kickstarter product marketed last year, but numerous false claims about what it could do meant its campaign was halted.

So it encouraged the team be as honest as possible about what its product could and couldn’t do, especially since they were new and scepticism over such products and what they claim to do was (and still is) high.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

“Anonabox did quite a bit of damage to the market… [so] what we had done to counter that was be upfront about what it was capable of and what it would not be capable of in terms of protecting and securing your information”, said Canavan.

It may have hurt some short-term sales, but in the medium-term, it built up trust in both the team and the product… we did think that pointing out the flaws would turn some people away, and honestly there’s no question in my mind at least that it did, but the people who did buy were thankful that we were honest and open about it.

InvizBox Pic Becca0 The Invizbox Go. Source: Invizbox

For now, the team is focused solely on the Kickstarter campaign and regardless of how it turns out, the product will be continued. At the time of writing, the project had raised €42,000 out of €100,000 which is an ambitious aim but Canavan says they’re not entertaining the possibility of falling short until the campaign finishes. If it falls short, then they will consider looking for funding elsewhere, but only after.

The pricing of an Invizbox Go after the Kickstarter campaign will be €109, but those buying it through Kickstarter will get it for €79. Both will come with a one-year premium VPN service and after that, you have the option to use the free version or pay €4 a month for the premium version.

Canavan said that they already reached out to retailers like PC World about selling the product there, a case of testing the waters first before doing anything. While the hope is to move into retail areas as soon as possible, and hire more people to help grow the company, the focus now is solely on the Kickstarter campaign.

Read: More than a billion Android devices are vulnerable to second Stagefright bug >

Read: Edward Snowden has joined Twitter – guess what’s the one account he follows? >

About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

Read next: