NYC cybersecurity: How are we protected? A look inside an operations center

A graduation ceremony like no other took place in New York City this week. 

It was the first class of recruits from New York's "Cyber Academy" – a first of its kind program anywhere offering intense in-house training to employees across all departments. 

Think of it like a digital police academy, and with billions of threats every week, these new cybersecurity teams will have plenty of work in the city.

The first class of recruits from New York's "Cyber Academy."

"We want to make sure that we continue to feed the pipeline," said New York City's chief technology officer Matthew Fraser. "So as we have resources that retire, or folks that move out, that we continuously build talent so that we can keep these jobs and these positions filled."

Fraser continued to say: "In order to do that, instead of depending exclusively on our traditional means in terms of tracking talents in the city, what we wanted to do was look at a program where we can build talent here."

In a modern world, nearly everything is automated. It means everything from streetlights to water coming from the tap depend on computerized systems to operate correctly. It's Fraser's job to protect it all from hackers.

Joint Security Operations Center in Brooklyn.

"There are systems that regulate how the water is cleaned and treated," Fraser said. "A cybersecurity event can impact that and can contaminate drinking water."

With that in mind, FOX 5 NY was given an exclusive look inside the Joint Security Operations Center located in Brooklyn. The NYPD, NY State Police, Port Authority and even the FBI have teams working there. 

This was a particularly interesting week to monitor online threats and digital traffic with the visit of former President Donald Trump's trip to the city for his arraignment in Lower Manhattan.

"In New York, you got to understand that the threat landscape is never calm," Fraser said. "We always run at an elevated level. So, events like this makes us go on higher alert."

The focus on protecting digital assets was heightened in recent months after several high profile cyber-attacks late last year caused serious disruptions locally.

Three Brooklyn hospitals and the Metropolitan Opera were all breached, paralyzing computer systems. On Long Island, a ransomware attack in Suffolk County crippled government agencies. Employees were forced to resort to old fax machines and paper reports because email systems went down.

"You just never know when something could become cybersecurity related," said Kelly Moan, chief information security officer with Cyber Command, who also helped design the curriculum for the recent graduates. 

Moan continued to say: "I'm really excited about what we've done with Cyber Academy to look for talent within the city to bring them upskill and rescale. So that you have hands on experience with incident response. So you can be another helping hand and city agencies for us and for their own security leadership. So it again speaks to the collaboration and partnership."

She said as many as 90 billion warnings come in every week across all city agencies. It could be something as small as a password error or a larger scale event like cyber thieves trying to overwhelm a department website. 

The warnings could be something as small as a password error or a larger scale event.

"We have to whittle down into cyber investigations about 50 or so per week," Moan said. "That requires a sizable amount of automation, and really good team here."

That is why the Adams Administration established the Cyber Academy. It's rethinking the "bootcamp" initially established by former Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

The new graduates come from a diverse mix of backgrounds and varying ages. They all represent different city agencies everything from city libraries to the police department. 

Twenty-one recruits finished the program now and more are in the pipeline for the future -- trained and certified to work digital security incidents.

Mayor Eric Adams described them as "guardians" building a pipeline of "cyber expertise."