LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday the launch of an initiative to share information about cybersecurity threats with businesses in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Cyber Lab claims to be the nation’s first city-led partnership dedicated to protecting businesses and residents from cyber attacks. Garcetti detailed the Cyber Lab at a news conference Tuesday morning at the City Emergency Operations Center.

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“A cyber attack can steal a down payment on a young couple’s first home,” Garcetti said. “A cyber attack could release confidential hospital records to the public or hold a small company’s data for ransom, crippling their business.”

The lab will have three phases: the first consists of protecting and alerting businesses to threats, the second involves the mutual exchange of information across “public and private sectors”, and the third is the development of what is called a “Cyber Lab Innovation Incubator.”

The incubator will “test appliances and tools via virtual connections to a live but isolated city of Los Angeles network (“Honeypot”). The incubator remains under development. The Cyber Lab hopes to have it complete by 2018.

The lab is free and open to all businesses.

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Federal agencies and industry organizations have developed several threat-sharing partnerships in recent years, but city leaders say they haven’t seen one emerge that addressed an entire region or small and medium-sized companies, the Los Angeles Times reports. L.A. hopes to do both, with initial partners including video game maker Riot Games, law firm O’Melveny and Myers and mall operator Westfield.

“Cybersecurity is one of the defining issues of our time,” said John Stewart, senior vice president of Cisco, which developed the lab in concert with the city. “Private businesses and public-sector organizations must collaborate closely to protect businesses’ interests and help keep our citizens more secure online.”

Businesses already signed on to the effort include AEG, Amazon, Riot Games, Westfield and Southern California Edison.

The city first stepped up its cybersecurity preparedness by using federal grant funds to install tools, such as data management software Splunk, to centralize cybersecurity issue monitoring.

Los Angeles already relies on warnings from the FBI and other governmental organizations to adjust defenses. Now, the city wants to understand threats faced by businesses.

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