This is it #GenXYZ, the final week of our #WebsiteWednesday mini-series highlighting the winners of the .xyz 4th-anniversary website building contest. Last, but by no means least, we’re showcasing ProjectPrivus.xyz, the cybersecurity solution proposed by software developer Aral Tasher.
The idea behind ProjectPrivus.xyz is that migrating consumers to a user centric privacy app would benefit them by providing stronger mobile security while also increasing their awareness of potential threats. Aral created Project Privus as part of a research proposal he worked on during his time at the Florida Institute of Technology, and he shares his hard work with an international audience with ProjectPrivus.xyz.
We got some time with Aral to ask him more about ProjectPrivus.xyz, his coding career, and what life is like for him offline.
XYZ: You have varied skills as a developer, from website design to app development to cybersecurity. Is there one area you enjoy working in most?
Aral: Haha, yes! I’d say the design aspect is my favorite part overall. I really enjoy focusing on the “usability” and “experience design” of a product, and that’s what I’ve been shifting towards lately.
XYZ: What first sparked your interest in coding?
Aral: Similar to many Software Engineers from my generation, I decided that I wanted to become a programmer when I was about 10 because I wanted to make video games. I’m a diehard fan of the FIFA video game series, and at the time my biggest dream was to work at EA (the studio behind the FIFA series.) However, programming wasn’t as popular as it is now in my country, so I actually didn’t get a chance to learn any programming skills until I started college.
XYZ: When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
Aral: Well, the thing with programming is that it’s never just 9-5. Outside of work I spend a decent amount of time on practicing and constantly learning (and re-learning) development skills, but I never work to the point that I’m burnt out. Besides practicing, I like to go to the gym, train MMA, go scuba diving, or do some photography/videography. I try to keep a nice variety of hobbies!
XYZ: What do you envision as the next step in your career?
Aral: Right now, I have a pseudo designer/developer position where I do a little bit of both. But I eventually want to move on and do “User Experience” research only. After having experiences in both academia and the private sector, I’ve found myself the happiest when I’m doing UX Research.
XYZ: What are your goals in the future for Project Privus, and how do you think ProjectPrivus.xyz can help you achieve them?
Aral: Project Privus was a user study I conducted as a part of my thesis. It was a proof of concept that the existing privacy managers are not really helping users understand how their information is shared by the apps they have installed. My advisors and I plan to have the research published in one of the upcoming usability conferences next year, and we hope that this will ignite more interest in usability research for other cybersecurity tools as well.
ProjectPrivus.xyz helped me reach out to a larger audience than just the professionals in the field. The thesis is quite a heavy read and it’s not written for everyday people, but thanks to ProjectPrivus.xyz I had a chance to boil down the findings into something that anyone can read and understand, which hopefully will increase more awareness for the research and the field.
XYZ: What is something you see on the horizon as a major technological hurdle we will have to overcome?
Aral: I think this research touches up one of the major hurdles that we are facing right now, which is privacy. I defended the thesis a few weeks after the enormous outrage with the Cambridge Analytica incident earlier this year, and I believe that people have been getting more worried about their privacy ever since. It’s nearly impossible to have complete privacy with all the connected devices we use, but with more usable security tools I think we can at least help everyone get a better understanding of how the process works.
Sometimes bringing the change you want to see happen can be difficult because your idea to fix a problem may not be simple for anyone to understand. In Aral’s case, he was able to convey his privacy solution in a way that any mobile device user could understand through his .xyz site. Do you have an idea to make a positive change? Get your .xyz domain and get started bringing your message to the world.