New York City is launching public cybersecurity tools to keep residents from getting hacked

In a week of harrowing city-level cyber attacks, New York is taking some precautions.

While the timing is coincidental, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced that the city will introduce the first tools in its suite of cybersecurity offerings to protect residents against malicious online activity, particularly on mobile devices.

When it launches this summer, New York residents will be able to download a free app called NYC Secure. The app will alert smartphone users to potential threats on their devices and offer tips for how to stay secure, “such as disconnecting from a malicious Wi-Fi network, navigating away from a compromised website, or uninstalling a malicious app.”

Because the app will take no active steps on its own, it’ll be up to users to heed the advice presented to them. NYC Secure will not collect or transmit any personal identifying information or private data.

The city will also beef up security over its public Wi-Fi networks, a notorious target for malicious actors looking to snoop on private information as it passes by unencrypted. The city will implement DNS protection through a service called Quad9, a free public cybersecurity product out of the partnership between Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), IBM and Packet Clearing House.

“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. “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.”

New York’s NYC Cyber Command (NYC3), a city-level cyber defense organization established by mayoral executive order in July 2017, will introduce the new public security tools and oversee their implementation.

“Initiatives like this one in New York City will help grow awareness of the increasing cyberattack problem and may urge citizens to take more action to protect themselves,” McAfee CEO Christopher Young said of the city’s cyber plan.

Because New York faces so many unique cybersecurity threats as an international business hub and a dense cultural epicenter, the city could provide a compelling model for other metropolitan areas looking to take their cyber problems into their own hands.