Link NYC Photo: Link NYC Official/Instagram

This month, CityBridge installed its first Link NYC free public Wi-Fi hotspots, offering super-fast gigabit speed 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi. Early reviews measured speeds of 300 mbps and incredible ease of use.

But some security experts say that public Wi-Fi on the scale of Link NYC comes with new risks.

“An attack is inevitable on New York City’s system…it is too big of a trophy,” said Mark Wuergler, a security professional at Immunity Inc, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Wuergler recommends users encrypt sensitive emails, update and strengthen passwords, and even set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

That said, CityBridge has an extensive team of security experts working to prevent vulnerabilities, and its design and policies are aimed at protecting user data.

LinkNYC uses an open network that relies on web server–based SSL security (URLs that begin with https) for privacy. Websites with the SSL feature help protect against others from seeing any of the information passing between individual devices and each hotspot — known as ‘Links.’

But LinkNYC goes a step further in offering a second network called ‘LinkNYC Private.’ This is one of the first free municipal Wi-Fi services in the country to offer an encrypted network connection between users and the hotspot, securing all wireless communications between devices and the Link, regardless of whether a site uses SSL security.

With this, LinkNYC offers the same levels of data encryption as most banks.

Although a variety of personal information (like username, browsing history, and page interaction information) will be collected, information shared is limited to internal operations, legally mandated sharing, and ad serving. The privacy policy specifically prohibits selling and sharing Personally Identifiable Information with third parties.

In a statement to BuzzBuzzHome, a representative for Mayor de Blasio, said they aimed to create a “customer-first” policy. “LinkNYC will use anonymized, aggregate data to make the system more efficient and to develop insights to improve the Link experience…We take privacy very seriously and will never sell any personal information or share with third parties for their own use.”

The de Blasio administration sees Broadband as a top priority to create “a more fair and just city.” Its OneNYC plan is working towards citywide broadband by 2025.

Jen Hensley, General Manager of LinkNYC, says that each Link’s free services are paramount to the “millions of people in NYC who don’t have access to high-speed Internet.” LinkNYC helps fill this gap by providing the fastest available Wi-Fi for free.

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