March 29, 2018 / 7:25 PM / 22 days ago

New York offers free cyber tools as cities fight hackers

March 29 (Reuters) - New York City on Thursday unveiled plans to provide free cyber security tools to the public, a week after Atlanta was hit with a ransomware attack that knocked some municipal systems offline and prevented city workers from using their computers.

The program, dubbed NYC Secure, will launch a free smartphone protection app this summer that will warn users when suspicious activity is detected on their devices, according to a city statement.

The program also calls for city agencies to beef up security protection on public Wi-Fi networks by the end of the year to protect residents, workers and visitors, the statement said.

“New Yorkers aren’t safe online. We can’t wait around for other levels of government to do something about it or the private sector,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “We have to act now.”

Atlanta officials worked alongside federal law enforcement and technicians from private security firms on Thursday to investigate the cause of the attack that encrypted data on computers.

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said she was waiting to hear more about how the hackers breached city networks, the scope of the attack and when city services would be fully operational.

“Everybody in the public wants to know. I want to know, too,” Moore said at a news conference. “But I do think that we need to give them an opportunity to get the information.”

Atlanta on Thursday reactivated a website that allows residents to make requests for trash pickup, report traffic signal outages and ask for other public works-related services.

Municipal court services remained offline on Thursday and City Hall employees told Reuters their work computers were still unusable a week after the hack was detected. (Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto and Laila Kearney in Atlanta; editing by Grant McCool)

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