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Biden Seeks to Bolster Port Cybersecurity with Executive Order

Biden Seeks to Bolster Port Cybersecurity with Executive Order

President Joe Biden will sign an executive order designed to implement new cybersecurity requirements for the nation’s port owners and operators amid growing concerns that hackers could roil crucial supply chains. The order will give the US Coast Guard new authority to respond to malicious cyber activity, require maritime vessels and facilities to bolster their cybersecurity, and impose new rules requiring the reporting of cyber incidents at ports. “The continuity of their operations has a clear and direct impact on the success of our country, our economy and our national security,” Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, told reporters. The Coast Guard is expected to begin a rulemaking process establishing minimum maritime cybersecurity requirements, as well as a security directive affecting crane owners and operators. Administration officials said they were concerned that more than 200 ship-to-shore cranes at US ports are manufactured by China and can be serviced and programmed remotely, creating a security vulnerability. Chinese manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. – known as ZPMC – controls large swaths of both the global and US markets for the cranes, which are crucial to loading and unloading cargo ships. At the same time, a US-based subsidiary of Japanese manufacturing conglomerate Mitsui E&S Co Ltd is planning to increase its domestic crane capacity to the US, with hopes of accessing some of the $20 billion in federal money for port infrastructure authorized across legislation signed during Biden’s presidency. The announcements come after the Biden administration earlier this month warned that a state-sponsored group of Chinese hackers known as Volt Typhoon has for years been working to access critical maritime, aviation, mass transit, and pipeline operations, in what the US described as an effort of “prepositioning themselves on IT networks” ahead of a possible effort to disrupt critical functions. While work on the executive order began long before that effort was publicly revealed, administration officials said the possibility of malign Chinese activity did weigh on its development. Aides said they were also alarmed by a ransomware hack on the Japanese port of Nagoya, which last summer halted activities there for days.
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As Home Insurance Bills Go Up, Owners’ Coverage Is Going Down

As Home Insurance Bills Go Up, Owners’ Coverage Is Going Down

Robert Shiver’s bill for his homeowner insurance jumped from $3,800 in 2022 to $8,000 in July. “I remember opening the bill and, honestly, laughing, like, ‘This is not feasible,’” he said. Mr. Shiver, 40, who lives about 20 miles east of Tampa, Fla., did not pay the bill. Instead, he worked with his insurance agent to shave off parts of his coverage, lowering the estimate for how much the insurer would have to pay to potentially rebuild his house from around $710,000 to about $560,000. Shrinking the coverage lowered his bill to just under $5,000, a huge relief, he said, since he would again be able to make his monthly mortgage and insurance payment. In the insurance business, Mr. Shiver might now be considered “underinsured,” meaning that his policy may not be sufficient to cover a rebuild after catastrophic losses. Underinsurance is not a new problem, but it has become far more widespread and severe over the past three years, as rising inflation and climate change have created a highly volatile and unreliable insurance market and raised costs for homeowners — sometimes in unexpected ways. Insurers’ losses from natural disasters topped $100 billion for the fourth straight year in 2023, and they are passing those costs on to property owners. High inflation has also forced insurers to raise rates to cover claims. Some homeowners are nickel-and-diming their own coverage by forgoing protection against hurricanes or windstorms; finding ways to lower the replacement values of their properties, as Mr. Shiver did; or raising their deductibles. Others are discovering that their policies won’t fully cover the cost of rebuilding because of steep increases in the cost of materials, once disaster has already struck. Colorado’s insurance commissioner, Michael Conway, discovered the extent of the underinsurance problem after a wildfire near Boulder destroyed close to a thousand homes in 2021. After getting calls from homeowners distressed that their policies wouldn’t fully cover the cost of rebuilding, the state’s Division of Insurance investigated and found that only 8 percent of policies in the areas affected by the fire pledged to cover rebuilding costs no matter how high they got. It also found that between one-third and two-thirds of all homes affected by the fire had been underinsured for rebuilding costs within a typical range. To try to fix the problem, Mr. Conway and his team convened meetings late last year with insurance companies, builders and other groups to brainstorm ideas for making things easier for homeowners, but no plans have emerged so far. “We’re very concerned about what those homeowners are experiencing with the affordability issues, and we’re absolutely sympathetic to the pressure that they’re feeling to find a way to afford their insurance coverage,” Mr. Conway said. Julie Coffey did not realize she was underinsured until she ran out of money while trying to rebuild her house near San Francisco after it burned to the ground in August 2020 in one of several large wildfires that swept across parts of California that summer. It took months before Ms. Coffey even knew what she would get from her insurer. By the time she began rebuilding her house in 2021, inflation was speeding up and building supplies were scarce. Her new home is missing key features she couldn’t afford, like a water softener and fencing. “Within one month of living here, my sink is showing signs of rust,” Ms. Coffey said. “It’s crazy all the things you need to do to try and get close to where you were without worry or thought.” Mark Friedlander, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group, said home insurance premiums had cumulatively risen 32 percent from 2019 to 2023, while rebuilding and replacement costs had gone up 55 percent. Analysts for the group estimated that in 2023, home insurers experienced their biggest underwriting loss — the difference between collected premiums and paid-out claims — since 2011. Behind the loss were huge storms that caused more than $50 billion in damage that insurers had to pay for. A survey last year by the institute and researchers for Munich Re, a reinsurer, found that 88 percent of U.S. homeowners had property insurance, down from 95 percent in 2019. Only 4 percent had flood insurance, even though 90 percent of the country’s natural disasters involve flooding. Once insurers raise premiums, many homeowners are discovering that their lenders are willing to explore ways to make their payments more affordable. Banks that collect mortgage payments must ensure that borrowers’ coverage meets requirements set by the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac housing agencies, but are open to owners tweaking it within those requirements, said Pete Mills, the chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, the trade group for the mortgage industry. Amy Bach, the executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit advocacy group that helps insurance consumers navigate tricky claims processes, said she found herself recommending a multitude of strategies these days to keep policies affordable. “For most consumers, what they’re facing now is: What is the least worst option for me, given the pricing?” she said. She advises lowering the coverage on the contents of a house or cutting coverage for outbuildings like garages, sheds, pools or retaining walls. “We had been saying, ‘Raise your deductible,’ but now, what does that mean?” Ms. Bach said. “My parents’ home on Long Island has a $33,000 wind deductible,” meaning they would have to pay that much out of pocket — a huge share of the cost of a new roof — before getting any help from their insurer. Not everyone thinks letting borrowers shave off parts of their coverage is a good thing. Brian Marino, an insurance agent in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he worried that if homeowners carried only enough coverage to satisfy their lenders, the lenders could recoup what they needed after a disaster while borrowers were left unable to afford a complete rebuild. “The bank is satisfied,” Mr. Marino said, “but they’re out on the street.” Mr. Friedlander, the trade group’s spokesman, said bundling home and auto policies and making “deductible adjustments” were common ways to cut insurance costs, adding that the institute recommended working with an agent “to reduce the cost of your policy without reducing the levels of coverage.” Homeowners aren’t the only ones slashing their coverage under pressure. The Peachtree Group, an Atlanta-based real estate investment company that invests in hotels, rental homes, office spaces and other properties around the country, expects deductibles on some of its properties to increase this year in response to rising insurance costs, said Charles Talbert, the company’s spokesman. That would leave it paying for more rebuilding costs. Sue Savio, an insurance agent in Honolulu, said underinsurance had recently become widespread on Oahu. “We have many condominiums whose premiums would have doubled or tripled,” Ms. Savio said. But instead of paying those higher premiums, owners got rid of coverage for damage from hurricanes, since such storms don’t frequently hit Hawaii. Our last hurricane was 32 years ago,” Ms. Savio said. Those who own their homes or other properties outright have much more leeway to decide whether or not to insure their properties. Some wealthy homeowners are willing to take the risk of being underinsured because they can afford to repair their properties themselves. “I’ve talked to people that own their home outright and they’re choosing to forgo the wind damage. They’re keeping flood,” said Brian Gray, a managing director at UBS whose wealth management group serves some of Tampa’s wealthiest residents. One of Mr. Gray’s clients agreed to a deductible of $1 million.    
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Insureds Need to Be Aware of Potential Insurance Gaps When Using AI: Munich Re

Insureds Need to Be Aware of Potential Insurance Gaps When Using AI: Munich Re

Global reinsurance giant Munich Re has highlighted how AI exposures within traditional insurance policies possess the ability to become a significant unexpected risk to insurers’ portfolios. This comes as the industry evaluates how to transfer capabilities in insuring traditional machine learning models to generative AI (GenAI) applications. A recent whitepaper released by the reinsurer explains how AI risks are usually excluded in traditional insurance policies, meaning that the damage that AI models can cause could wind up being covered by traditional insurance policies. Some examples that Munich Re highlights include, AI-based machinery injuring bystanders, which could be covered by existing general liability policies, as well as AI models that are hacked, which could be covered by existing cyber insurance policies. An alarming example that the reinsurer also gives is that AI-based cleaning robots could potentially destroy a property, which could wind up being covered by existing property insurance policies. In addition, AI models that make biased employment decisions could also be covered by existing EPLI policies, Munich Re stated. Moreover, due to the fact that AI technology is impacting practically all aspects of life, there is a lot of partial coverage from existing insurance policies, which is ultimately making it difficult for both insurer and insured to have full confidence on the extent of the coverage – potentially leading to over- or underinsurance, Munich Re warns. A worrying factor to highlight, is that the overall lack of conclusiveness on the extent of the coverage could lead to devastating effects for insurers. In addition, AI exposures within traditional insurance policies could also represent a major unexpected risk to insurers’ portfolios. This could be due to the risks of AI underperforming, not being considered throughout the pricing stages of the insurance. Munich Re states that when using AI technology, insureds need be aware of potential insurance gaps, that leave them exposed to risks caused by their AI models. In a report released last year from Moody’s Investors Service, analysts highlighted how the insurance industry’s widened use of data and analytics positions it well for AI productivity gains, as many different companies have been gradually leveraging AI technology for a number of years. Re/insurance broker Aon also examined how the insurance market’s overall understanding of Gen AI-related risk is still within it’s earlier stages. The company noted that this developing form of the technology is expected to impact many different lines within the sector, such as Technology Errors and Omissions / Cyber, Professional Liability, Media Liability, Employment Practices Liability, and more.
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Tech Companies Sign Accord to Combat AI-Generated Election Trickery

Tech Companies Sign Accord to Combat AI-Generated Election Trickery

Major technology companies signed a pact to voluntarily adopt “reasonable precautions” to prevent artificial intelligence tools from being used to disrupt democratic elections around the world. Executives from Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and TikTok gathered at the Munich Security Conference to announce a new framework for how they respond to AI-generated deepfakes that deliberately trick voters. Twelve other companies — including Elon Musk’s X — are also signing on to the accord. “Everybody recognizes that no one tech company, no one government, no one civil society organization is able to deal with the advent of this technology and its possible nefarious use on their own,” said Nick Clegg, president of global affairs for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, in an interview ahead of the summit. The accord is largely symbolic, but targets increasingly realistic AI-generated images, audio and video “that deceptively fake or alter the appearance, voice, or actions of political candidates, election officials, and other key stakeholders in a democratic election, or that provide false information to voters about when, where, and how they can lawfully vote”. The companies aren’t committing to ban or remove deepfakes. Instead, the accord outlines methods they will use to try to detect and label deceptive AI content when it is created or distributed on their platforms. It notes the companies will share best practices with each other and provide “swift and proportionate responses” when that content starts to spread. The vagueness of the commitments and lack of any binding requirements likely helped win over a diverse swath of companies, but disappointed advocates were looking for stronger assurances. “The language isn’t quite as strong as one might have expected,” said Rachel Orey, senior associate director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “I think we should give credit where credit is due, and acknowledge that the companies do have a vested interest in their tools not being used to undermine free and fair elections. That said, it is voluntary, and we’ll be keeping an eye on whether they follow through.” Clegg said each company “quite rightly has its own set of content policies.” “This is not attempting to try to impose a straitjacket on everybody,” he said. “And in any event, no one in the industry thinks that you can deal with a whole new technological paradigm by sweeping things under the rug and trying to play whack-a-mole and finding everything that you think may mislead someone.” Several political leaders from Europe and the U.S. also joined Friday’s announcement. European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said while such an agreement can’t be comprehensive, “it contains very impactful and positive elements.” She also urged fellow politicians to take responsibility to not use AI tools deceptively and warned that AI-fueled disinformation could bring about “the end of democracy, not only in the EU member states.” The agreement at the German city’s annual security meeting comes as more than 50 countries are due to hold national elections in 2024. Bangladesh, Taiwan, Pakistan and most recently Indonesia have already done so. Attempts at AI-generated election interference have already begun, such as when AI robocalls that mimicked U.S. President Joe Biden’s voice tried to discourage people from voting in New Hampshire’s primary election last month. Just days before Slovakia’s elections in November, AI-generated audio recordings impersonated a candidate discussing plans to raise beer prices and rig the election. Fact-checkers scrambled to identify them as false as they spread across social media. Politicians also have experimented with the technology, from using AI chatbots to communicate with voters to adding AI-generated images to ads. The accord calls on platforms to “pay attention to context and in particular to safeguarding educational, documentary, artistic, satirical, and political expression.” It said the companies will focus on transparency to users about their policies and work to educate the public about how they can avoid falling for AI fakes. Most companies have previously said they’re putting safeguards on their own generative AI tools that can manipulate images and sound, while also working to identify and label AI-generated content so that social media users know if what they’re seeing is real. But most of those proposed solutions haven’t yet rolled out and the companies have faced pressure to do more. That pressure is heightened in the U.S., where Congress has yet to pass laws regulating AI in politics, leaving companies to largely govern themselves. The Federal Communications Commission recently confirmed AI-generated audio clips in robocalls are against the law, but that doesn’t cover audio deepfakes when they circulate on social media or in campaign advertisements. Many social media companies already have policies in place to deter deceptive posts about electoral processes — AI-generated or not. Meta says it removes misinformation about “the dates, locations, times, and methods for voting, voter registration, or census participation” as well as other false posts meant to interfere with someone’s civic participation. Jeff Allen, co-founder of the Integrity Institute and a former Facebook data scientist, said the accord seems like a “positive step” but he’d still like to see social media companies taking other actions to combat misinformation, such as building content recommendation systems that don’t prioritize engagement above all else. Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, argued Friday that the accord is “not enough” and AI companies should “hold back technology” such as hyper-realistic text-to-video generators “until there are substantial and adequate safeguards in place to help us avert many potential problems.” In addition to the companies that helped broker Friday’s agreement, other signatories include chatbot developers Anthropic and Inflection AI; voice-clone startup ElevenLabs; chip designer Arm Holdings; security companies McAfee and TrendMicro; and Stability AI, known for making the image-generator Stable Diffusion. Notably absent is another popular AI image-generator, Midjourney. The San Francisco-based startup didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The inclusion of X — not mentioned in an earlier announcement about the pending accord — was one of the surprises of Friday’s agreement. Musk sharply curtailed content-moderation teams after taking over the former Twitter and has described himself as a “free speech absolutist.” In a statement Friday, X CEO Linda Yaccarino said “every citizen and company has a responsibility to safeguard free and fair elections.” “X is dedicated to playing its part, collaborating with peers to combat AI threats while also protecting free speech and maximizing transparency,” she said.
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