As Internet user numbers are growing and the risks are increasing, American cities are pursuing solutions to protect their citizens and corporations. Many cities such as Dallas, New York and Michigan, have adopted a smart app development policy that prohibits malware and guides users to protective measures.
Regrettably, each development was accompanied by unethical exploitation methods and, of course, modern means of communication and the Internet had the largest share of such methods, for example, electronic theft of users' data and extortion in what is known as phishing.
This term refers to one type of cyberattack, where the user falls victim to a repeated trick; opens an email with a link to which he is asked to click, and once he does, malware is installed on the computer or smartphone, or the work system freezes to demand ransom or reveal sensitive information. These emails may bear logos of famous companies, legal, financial or health tips, and may look like they come from a friend or colleague.
According to the numbers, it seems that Americans fall into this trap more than others, as the Federal Trade Commission monitored an increase in fraudulent phishing operations by 61% within one year, after recording 255 million attacks during the first half of the year 2022, with financial losses of nearly $70 million before the end of March. The committee attributed these figures to the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused many economic and social impacts and increased reliance on the Internet for work, communication and shopping.
This reality created competition between local authorities in different American cities and states to find solutions. In parallel, a frantic race was launched among prominent technology companies in the private sector. Naturally, government endeavours had to intersect with business ambitions to create many cooperative projects aimed at approaching this challenge.
In New York, the local government deals with cybersecurity as an issue that is no less important than physical protection and fire prevention, so it launched “NYC Secure”, which includes awareness campaigns, road advertisements, and developing smart applications to inform citizens of cyber threats and direct them to protect themselves, their families, and their businesses.
These attacks have devastating results for users. Once the victim's account is hacked, the attack targets his family, friends, and even the entities he works for. For ordinary people, these attacks may cause unauthorised purchases, theft of money, or impersonation. As for companies – whether government or private – it is hacked through its employees to obtain privileged access to protected data, which incurs heavy financial losses that may reduce its market share and lose the confidence of its customers.
Created in 2017 by Executive Order, NYC Cyber Command (NYC3) was established with the mandate to set citywide information security policies and standards, in addition to work across more than 100 agencies and offices to protect, detect, respond, and recover from threats.
Authorities in Dallas are keen to educate their citizens about the dangers of the Internet and strengthen their protection against cyberattacks while increasing their access to the Internet.
While modern phones include many security features such as passwords in various forms that include a fingerprint, they still lack comprehensive and up-to-date software capable of detecting all threats. Recently, protection efforts resulted in a smart application inspired by the experiences of New York and Los Angeles, under the supervision of the City of Dallas’ ITS Security team, who presented it to an independent third party for evaluation and advice.
Dallas Secure is a mobile app launched to help residents navigate potential threats to their smartphones. The tool blocks phishing texts, guards against malicious app downloads and warns against connecting to unsafe Wi-Fi networks. The app can also help users verify the authenticity of incoming messages, whether received via email or text, or posted on social media.
It is common that the protection applications may stop working or be hacked, and thus, not only do they lose the user's last firewall, but they also risk violating the privacy of their associated data. Dallas Secure was engineered with a privacy-first approach; it uses only the necessary information points from the device to monitor threats— none of the information is linked to the user and no information leaves the device. Best of all, the app does not require an internet connection to detect a threat, so alerts are immediate. Dallas authorities hope that the new application will enhance cybersecurity and be popular, as is the case with NYC Secure, which has been downloaded 150,000 times in 4 years, or perhaps like the Michigan version, Michigan Secure, which won ‘State IT Innovation of the Year’ Award due to its success in impacting people's security and lives, a large part of which is now being lived in the virtual world.