NYC Secure launched: Cybersecurity initiative to protect New Yorkers online

“I salute Mayor de Blasio for NYC Secure. The City of New York has long been a progressive model for the nation in providing services for its people. Now, through his innovative leadership in cybersecurity, Bill has placed New York at the forefront of great cities in an area of national urgency. I salute Mayor de Blasio and his administration for this important cybersecurity initiative,” said Jeh Johnson, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

The City’s initiative to get a free smartphone protection app into the hands of the public is in response to a dramatic increase in the use of mobile phones to connect to the internet. In early 2017, mobile phones accounted for 50 percent of web traffic, and the average U.S. user spends over 5 hours a day on their smartphone. Despite this growth in use, most mobile phones remain vulnerable to hackers. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 30 percent of all cyberattacks will be mobile-based.

The app, which will be available free to all New Yorkers this summer, will help minimize these risks by identifying malicious attacks and warning users of attempts to compromise their device. Users will receive recommended steps to protect themselves, such as disconnecting from a malicious Wi-Fi network, navigating away from a compromised website, or uninstalling a malicious app. The app will not take actions on the phone by itself.

The City-sponsored app will equip mobile devices with the technology needed to analyze threats while operating under a strict privacy policy and layers of technical controls that ensure user privacy is respected. The app works without accessing any personally identifiable information, and will not collect or transmit any private data. Similar technology available commercially typically checks for threats by collecting data from a mobile device and analyzing it externally in the cloud—meaning users must sacrifice the privacy of their data to secure their devices. That is not the case with the City-sponsored application.

The City will additionally strengthen its own Wi-Fi networks by implementing a new layer of security. This technology will protect users browsing the Internet on City guest wireless networks from downloading malicious software such as ransomware, or accessing phishing websites that attempt to trick users into providing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details. The technology defends browsing sessions without using or storing any personally identifiable information, while adhering to the highest standards of user privacy.

NYC Cyber Command has mandated the deployment of the technology across all “Guest” and public Wi-Fi networks provided by New York City agencies and related entities by the end of the year. Eighteen agencies and offices are already utilizing the protection for their internal networks, and the remainder of internal networks will implement it by the end of 2018. The technology will also be deployed on the LinkNYC network, which already has 1,400 free wi-fi Kiosks around the five boroughs and millions of users.

NYC says that the City will be actively soliciting feedback during this process.

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