This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “7 State & Local Tech Trends to Watch.” Download the full guide here.
Mobile devices are a major reason why today’s world is so connected. Their popularity, however, offers them little protection from cyberthreats. Bad actors, user errors and poor cyber hygiene cause headaches for citizens and governments alike.
Most mobile phones come with security features such as lock codes, but they still have multiple vulnerabilities. Protecting those weaknesses is crucial, but most mobile phones lack software for spotting threats and possible flaws.
Mobile apps help governments protect their constituents by keeping them aware of their phone’s security. These programs can alert users to cyberthreats, making them potentially useful for governments hoping to safeguard their citizens’ data from accidents and antagonists alike.
For example, New York City launched an app in October 2018 that explores new territory for mobile phone security. NYC Secure is free to download and protects users’ data without hurting their privacy.
NYC Secure doesn’t require an internet connection for threat detection, and it doesn’t act independently. Instead, it prompts users to make decisions. The app urges people to avoid compromised websites, uninstall harmful apps and disconnect from exposed Wi-Fi networks. Flagging these hazards helps citizens make better mobile security moves. It also protects their privacy by not collecting or transmitting any of their sensitive data.
The recent rollout was part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) NYC Secure initiative, which began in March 2018 with the goal of protecting New Yorkers online. The app was launched by NYC Cyber Command (NYC3), which mitigates New York City’s cyberthreats and manages its cyber defenses and incident responses.
“You’re empowered by the information and able to adjust your life accordingly,” said Maya Worman, NYC3’s Director of External Affairs. “Cybersecurity is a public-safety issue and cities and municipal governments are in the business of public safety.”
This improves users’ cyber hygiene without reducing control over their decisions. NYC Secure also maintains users’ privacy by never collecting or transmitting their personally identifiable information.
“People need to be more selective and aware of how their private data is used, sold, monetized and eroded,” Worman said. “Anything that teaches people how to protect themselves and navigate risks makes New York City better and stronger.”