De Blasio Administration Heralds City’s  First-Ever Cybersecurity Initiative

De Blasio Administration Heralds City’s First-Ever Cybersecurity Initiative

Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Councilman Donovan Richards said “As technology advances, so do the criminals, which is why NYC Secure is critical to the safety of all private citizens.”

By Forum Staff
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the launch the city’s first-ever cybersecurity initiative aimed at protecting users from malicious cyber activity on mobile devices and across public Wi-Fi networks.
According to the administration, NYC Secure programs will include a free, City-sponsored smartphone protection application that, when installed, will issue warnings to users when suspicious activity is detected on their mobile devices. The City additionally announced new “world-class” protection for its public Wi-Fi networks.
“In order to stay a step ahead of cyber criminals that are continuously finding new ways to hack devices, we must invest in the safety of the digital lives of our residents,” said Geoff Brown, citywide chief information security officer and head of NYC Cyber Command. “While no individual is immune to cybersecurity threats, this program will add an extra layer of security to personal devices that often house a huge amount of sensitive data.”
The app, which will be available this summer, will help minimize 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. According to the City, 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 NYC Secure application, the administration promised.
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.
De Blasio said the City decided to develop the NYC Secure app after 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 more than five hours a day on their smartphone. Despite the significant growth in use, cybersecurity experts warn that most mobile phones remain vulnerable to hackers.
“While the NYPD is focusing on cyber intelligence and counterterrorism threats, the City must do its part to support their efforts by protecting every New Yorker and visitor from potential attacks through their phone or any public WiFi,” said City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety. “As technology advances, so do the criminals, which is why NYC Secure is critical to the safety of all private citizens.”


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