New York City just launched a free app to protect people’s phones because cyber criminals are becoming a bigger threat

  • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new mobile app on Thursday that will help protect New Yorkers online for free.
  • The app is part of an initiative called NYC Secure and will help people monitor insecure WiFi networks and malicious content on their phones.
  • Amid privacy concerns, city officials said the app will not collect any personal data.
  • It will be available for download starting this summer.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a new mobile phone app that will help New Yorkers protect themselves online.

The app, which will help people avoid unsafe WiFi networks and detect malicious content on their devices, is part of an initiative called NYC Secure. This campaign is an effort to provide residents with cybersecurity tools that will help them navigate away from threats online.

Android and iPhone users will be able to download the app this summer.

“Now that our lives are more and more online, it’s our job to make sure people’s lives are safe online,” de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday. “Our streets are already the safest of any big city in the country – now we’re bringing that same commitment to protecting New Yorkers into cyberspace.”

The app will:

  • Monitor the device for abnormal behaviour and alert the user to that behaviour
  • Warn the user when joining a WiFi network that is known to contain malicious content
  • Let the user know about insecure mobile apps downloaded from the app store

While the idea for the app was conceived by officials at NYC Cyber Command (NYC3), a government agency overseeing the city’s cyber defences, the app itself will be built by an outside partner.

Geoff Brown, the chief information security officer for NYC, stressed that the app will collect “zero personal data” from those who download it.

“Our intent is to have [the app] designed in a way that at the very code level, it is only doing the things that we prescribe for it to do and it is doing nothing else,” Brown said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “It will not be taking a list of all the apps and sending it to a third party, to us, or anyone else. It will only be performing the functions that are necessary to guide the user away from threats.”

While the initiative is being targeted to New Yorkers, the app will be available to anyone based in the US.

In addition to the app, city officials also unveiled a city-wide effort to add a new layer of protection to public WiFi hotspots so that people will be alerted whether a guest or public network is secure.

Brown said the city will deploy the initiative across all NYC government agencies’ public WiFi networks by the end of the year. The city is working in partnership with Global Cyber Alliance, an international cybersecurity group that combats cybercrime.

The NYC Secure initiative will cost the city $US5 million annually, de Blasio said.

The announcement comes amid increasing cyberattacks aimed at virtually anything connected to the internet.

Just last week, a group of hackers breached government computer systems in Atlanta, a situation the city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, described as “a hostage situation.”

The incident has raised concerns about how prepared government officials are when it comes to protecting critical infrastructures and people’s personal information online.

Brown said NYC Secure is an attempt to ease those concerns.

“We don’t think necessarily cybersecurity solutions should only be the purview of people that either have an incredible amount of knowledge to protect themselves or an incredible amount of money to buy protection,” he said.