The app prevents users on public Wi-Fi from inadvertently opening malicious links and accessing rogue networks.
Smartphone users are susceptible to mobile attacks as they increasingly rely on their devices for work, shopping, health care and connecting with friends. Besides presenting vast and rich targets to hackers, mobile devices have fewer protections available.
That's why the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in partnership with mobile security company Zimperium, has rolled out LA Secure, an application to help residents protect their devices and information from cybersecurity threats on public Wi-Fi networks, including those available on the city's public transit system.
The app alerts users to mobile security threats from websites or malicious links in real time so users can stop security threats before their device or information is compromised. For example, LA Secure's phishing protection allows users to screen a link sent to them, ensuring the legitimacy of the destination website. Also, if users try to connect to a rogue Wi-Fi network, the app alerts them of the security risk right away.
The application, which is part of the city’s effort to improve customer experience, includes an enhancement that continuously validates every web connection to the device. This will allow residents to use public Wi-Fi to shop online, enter their financial details and log into secure portals without worrying about their information being stolen. Critically, the app does not collect any personal information from citizens’ mobile devices, Zimperium CEO Shridhar Mittal said.
The mobile screening app started with basic DNS-filtering that would prevent malicious websites, but Mittal said the company’s approach is now informed by insights gathered from Zimperium’s enterprise customers who are "checking for network-related attacks or application-based attacks, phishing attacks. It is the same detection technology we use for the citizens.”
Los Angeles is not the first city to introduce mobile security for its public Wi-Fi networks; New York City announced a similar initiative with Zimperium called NYC Secure in 2018, and the state of Michigan soon followed suit.
“We see LA Secure as another opportunity to provide greater access and equity for our transit customers, many of whom are low-income, do not have their own access to Internet services and depend greatly on public Wi-Fi services,” LA Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins said. “We believe everyone deserves to have a secure online experience on our system.”