Business

  • FEMA will review denied or underpaid Sandy-related claims by owners of damaged homes

    Hundreds of homeowners who were denied claims for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy will now have their claims reviewed, according to a series of reforms by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which operates the National Flood Insurance Program. According to FEMA administrator, W. Craig Fugate, contractors hired to handle homeowner claims allegedly conspired to underpay flood insurance settlements to homeowners.

  • Storing hydrogen underground could boost transportation, energy security

    Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Geologic storage of hydrogen gas could make it possible to produce and distribute large quantities of hydrogen fuel for the growing fuel cell electric vehicle market.

  • FAA caught between commercial pressures, safety concerns in regulating drone use

    Law enforcement agencies in major U.S. cities have expressed concerns about the possible use of drones by terrorists to launch bombs against key U.S. targets, including shopping malls, stadiums, and even banks. The FAA is in a tough spot, says one expert.”If they come out with rules that are not protective enough and then there’s some sort of an accident then they will be criticized for not having been more careful with this technology,” he says. “On the other hand, if they come out with rules that are viewed as overly restrictive in the name of safety then they are going to be criticized as impeding the growth of the industry, so it’s a very difficult balancing act that they have to navigate.”

  • Coordinated cyberattacks by Iran-based hackers on global critical infrastructure

    Irvine, California-based cybersecurity firm Cylance last week released a report detailing coordinated attacks by hackers with ties to Iran on more than fifty targets in sixteen countries around the globe. Victim organizations were found in a variety of critical industries, with most attacks on airlines and airports, energy, oil and gas, telecommunications companies, government agencies and universities.

  • Growing cybersecurity threats offer opportunities for cybersecurity businesses

    A 2013 report from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team(US-CERT) noted that the number of cyberattacks reported by federal agencies had skyrocketed 782 percent since 2006, to nearly 49,000, in 2012. Today, the figure is much higher. The increasing threat of cyberattacks from domestic and foreign actors has opened up opportunities for cybersecurity professionals, many of whom held positions with the U.S. military or intelligence agencies. For the private sector, cybersecurity spending is expected to reach $71.1 billion this year, and expected to grow about 9 percent annually through 2016.

  • Insurance industry needs support to address effects of climate change on the built environment

    A new report finds that the increasing frequency of extreme weather brought on by climate change adversely affects real estate values and increases the probability of property damage occurring in urban areas. In the last ten years alone, direct losses in real estate and infrastructure as a result of natural disasters has tripled, reaching $150 billion per year. The report highlights the steps the insurance industry has taken to adopt risk standards for climate change across the industry, from catastrophe models and scenario analysis to insurance products that incentivize risk-reducing building practices.

  • DOJ’s new cyber unit to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance

    The Justice Department is creating a cybersecurity unit within its Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance investigations.The unit will also work with Congress on cybersecurity legislation and focus on cybercrime prevention.

  • Tech investors turning to agriculture as a safe bet

    Investors and entrepreneurs are turning their sights toward the world of farming, seeing the next decades as especially challenging for because of the need to feed the expected ten billion people who will then people the planet. The technologies that these companies are investing in include not just the expected hallmarks of advanced efficient farming — robot workers, better software, and food substitute technology — but also farmland itself.Manysee the investment as a more solid and safer relative one amidst to the much more volatile tech prospects. “Farmland is more of a safe way to invest your savings,” says one investor. “Farmland isn’t going to disappear. Dropbox could disappear.”

  • China says U.S. does not appreciate China’s own vulnerability to cyberattacks

    At the seventh annual China-U.S. Internet Industry Forum held on 2-3 December, Lu Wei, minister of China’s Cyberspace Affairs Administration, which manages Internet information in China, urged U.S. officials and the private sector to stop claiming Chinese cyberespionage against U.S. systems and instead understand China’s Internet information policies. China has become the world’s largest Internet market with over four million websites, 600 million Web users, and four of the world’s top ten Internet firms.

  • Hackers well-versed in Wall Street vernacular hack publicly traded companies

    Security firm FireEye’s recent reporton a group of hackers who have been infiltrating e-mail correspondence from more than 100 organizations, differs from the company’s previous reportson cyber criminals operating from China or Russia. This time, the hackers are based in North America or Western Europe, and are well-versed in Wall Street vernacular. The hackers, who FireEye named “FIN4” because they are one of many groups that hack for financial gain, targeted mostly publicly traded healthcare or pharmaceutical companies, along with their advisory firms, in pursuit of information that could affect global financial markets.

  • Online tools help users adopt better privacy practices

    Research shows a growing concern for online privacy, but Internet users give up personal information every day in exchange for the convenience and functionality of a variety of online services. Online privacy is distinct from online security, which encompasses efforts to mitigate the theft of personal information. Most violations of online privacy are not illegal but rather the results of tacit consumer consent. The new Privacy Helper mobile app teaches users about the features on their phones that can affect privacy. The key to Privacy Helper, its developers say, is its flexibility in giving users better control over how they share personal information.

  • Southeastern Louisiana has a problem: "The sea is rising and the land is sinking"

    Southeastern Louisiana is drowning at the rate of one football field per hour, totaling up to sixteen square miles annually. In just eighty years, sea level rise, fossil fuel extraction, and having too few wetlands separating the Gulf from the flood protection levee systems have caused some 2,000 square miles of Louisiana’s coastal landscape to sink into the Gulf of Mexico. The issues facing Louisiana’s southeastern coast pose a threat to American energy and economic stability. A $50 billion, 50-year coastal restoration plan, formulated in 2007, is yet to be accepted and funded, but experts note that if sea-level rise is as bad as the worst case scenario, several projects at the heart of the restoration plan would become infective.

  • A solution to the U.S. water problem: People who use more water, pay more

    Approximately one-third of the United States is in at least a moderate state of drought. Exacerbating the drought is a rapidly increasing population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country’s population will balloon from nearly 310 million in 2010 to more than 420 million in 2060. Experts say that current levels of water consumption cannot continue. One expert says that seasonally adjusted increasing block rates could be the answer. In short, people who use more water, pay more.

  • Egypt thwarts terrorist attack on Israeli gas platforms in the Mediterranean Sea

    Egypt said it had thwarted an attempt by Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Egyptian terrorists on 12 November to attack Israeli energy platforms in the Mediterranean Sea. The terrorists, members of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terror group which operates in the Sinai Peninsula, commandeered an Egyptian navy missile boat for the planned attack. Other Egyptian navy vessels gave chase and stopped the commandeered missile boat, killing eight aboard in a heavy exchange of fire. In addition to attacking Israeli gas platform, the terrorists planned to attack Israeli ships.

  • Impasse in Congress over terrorism insurance (TRIA) renewal

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA) is expected to expire by 31 December unless Congress renews the legislation or places a temporary extension. The legislation, initially established in November 2002 as a federal backstop to protect insurers in the event an act of terrorism results in losses above $100 million, has been extended and reauthorized. The insurance industry supports the reauthorization approved by the Senate, and opposes a short-term extension. Some insurance companies have noted on their contracts that policyholders could lose terrorism coverage if TRIA is not renewed.