Google and Amazon most impersonated brands in phishing attacks

google-and-amazon-most-impersonated-brands-in-phishing-attacks

WhatsApp, Facebook, and Microsoft rounded out the top five as the most spoofed brands last quarter, says Check Point Research.

PHISHING Button on Computer Keyboard

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Phishing attacks typically try to lure in victims by impersonating well-known companies, brands, and products. The goal is to arouse interest, curiosity, or even fear among recipients so that they’ll be more likely to take the bait and fall for the scam.

Brand phishing in particular works by spoofing the websites of popular organizations or products through which attackers often try to obtain login credentials or other confidential information. A new report from cyber threat intelligence provider Check Point Research highlights some of the most spoofed brands seen during the second quarter.

SEE: Zero trust security: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic) 

Released on Tuesday, Check Point’s “Brand Phishing Report for Q2 2020” found that Google and Amazon were the most impersonated brands last quarter, each accounting for 13% of the brand phishing campaigns analyzed. At the same time, Apple dropped from first place in the first quarter of 2020 to seventh place in the second quarter, accounting for only 2% of the brand phishing attacks seen.

Elsewhere on the list, WhatsApp and Facebook tied for third place, each representing 9% of the observed brand phishing campaigns. Microsoft accounted for 7%, Outlook for 3%, and Netflix tied with Apple, Huawei, and PayPal for 2%. Looking at industries, the most impersonated were technology, followed by banking, and then social networks.

Image: Check Point Research

Among different attack vectors or platforms, email accounted for 24% of the brand phishing campaigns, with Microsoft, Outlook, and UniCredit the most impersonated. Web-based attacks encompassed 61%, with Google, Amazon, and WhatsApp the most spoofed. And mobile brands accounted for 15% of all attacks, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and PayPal the most imitated.

Phishing exploits conducted through email rose to second place from third place in the previous quarter. This change may be due to the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions through which businesses have started to reopen and employees have begun returning to work, Check Point said.

In one brand phishing campaign spotted by Check Point in late June, attackers tried to imitate the login page of Apple’s iCloud service. Using the domain name of account-icloud.com and registered under an IP address located in Russia, this attack tried to steal iCloud login credentials. In another campaign seen in May, a fraudulent website attempted to impersonate a PayPal login page. Using the domain of paypol-login.com, this site was registered under an IP address in the US.

To protect yourself and your organization against these types of brand phishing attacks, Check Point offers the following advice:

  • Verify that you’re using or ordering from an authentic website. One way to do this is NOT to click on promotional links in emails. Instead, search for your desired retailer and select the link from the search results.
  • Beware of “special” offers. An 80% discount on a new iPhone is usually not a reliable or trustworthy purchase opportunity.
  • Beware of lookalike domains, spelling errors in emails or websites, and unfamiliar email senders.

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Google Pixel 4A: Cheat sheet

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Google’s Pixel 4A smartphone is a budget model priced at $349 with enough important features for pro users to make it an ideal company-issue device.

Google Pixel 4A

Image: Angela Lang/CNET

Google’s latest smartphone isn’t a new flagship device: It’s the Pixel 4A, the budget version of last year’s Pixel 4. Owners of flagship smartphones won’t be wowed by its features (which are minimal) or its design (which is simple), but the Pixel 4A isn’t designed with flagship device users in mind. The Pixel 4A is geared toward people who are budget conscious or don’t need or want all the bells and whistles, or companies that want a fleet of basic, yet modern, business smartphones. 

At only $349, the Pixel 4A is priced to compete with other mid-tier smartphones from major manufacturers, but with the added benefit of having “…one of the best cameras you can get on a smartphone,” according to Lynn La in her review on TechRepublic sister site CNET.

Despite some drawbacks, the Pixel 4A has solid specs for a good price, and it’s worth considering as a business smartphone. 

SEE: Managing and troubleshooting Android devices checklist (TechRepublic Premium) 

What is the Google Pixel 4A, and how does it compare to the Pixel 4?

The Pixel 4A is Google’s latest mid-tier Android smartphone. It takes design cues from 2019’s Pixel 4 flagship device and serves as the replacement for the Pixel 3A, which Google discontinued in mid-July 2020.

The Pixel 4A is undoubtedly not a flagship device, especially compared to the Pixel 4, its closest flagship relative in Google’s smartphone lineup. In contrast to the Pixel 4, the 4A:

  • Only has one rear camera (no telephoto lens);
  • Only has a 60Hz display (the Pixel 4 has a 90Hz display);

  • Doesn’t have wireless charging; 

  • Doesn’t have an IP rating (it isn’t water or dust resistant);

  • Doesn’t have Soli motion sensing;

  • Has a less-powerful chipset than the Pixel 4; and

  • Doesn’t have configuration options.

CNET said that the Pixel 4A looks and feels cheap despite its design. “Its plain polycarbonate body lacks the glossiness of the Galaxy A51, the elegance of the iPhone SE and the fun Pop Art aesthetic of its Pixel 4 brother,” said CNET’s Lynn La in her review of the 4A.

On the positive side of things, the Pixel 4A does have elements in its favor over the Pixel 4:

  • It has a headphone jack; 
  • A larger display;
  • A larger battery;
  • and the exact same rear camera as the Pixel 4’s main lens for a far lower price. 

As CNET’s Lynn La said in her review of the Pixel 4A, “it takes very little effort to get the Pixel 4A to spit out a good photo.” That can be a big plus for business users who need to take photographs for documentation purposes, social media, special events, or other workday uses. 

Google Pixel 4A specs

Display: 5.81″ OLED, 2340×1080, always on, 24-bit color

Dimensions: 5.7″ x 2.7″ x 0.3″ (144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm), 5.04 oz (148g)

Operating System: Android 10

Storage: 128 GB

Memory: 6 GB

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G

Cameras: 12.2MP rear, 8MP front, 4K video capture

Battery: 3,140 mAh

Login security: rear fingerprint reader

Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, dual SIM (nano and e-SIM)

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (no Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, Google Cast, LTE cellular

Additional resources:

What are the Pixel 4A main competitors?

The Pixel 4A is competing against any mid-tier smartphone, but in particular two competitors stand out: The Samsung Galaxy A51 and the newest iPhone SE model. Of those two, the biggest challenger for Pixel 4A market share is the Galaxy A51.

In its Pixel 4A announcement post, CNET pointed out that Google has had a bit of a struggle in the smartphone market as of late, with team conflicts, the departure of key smartphone engineers, and the several month delay of the Pixel 4A. 

Samsung continues to dominate the Android device market, and Google’s failure to make inroads isn’t likely to let up with competition coming from the Samsung A51, which from photos looks like a much higher-end device. That may not be the case, but looks count when it comes to mobile devices, especially when the Pixel 4A has already been described by CNET as feeling cheap. 

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Samsung and Google both have reasons for investing in the Pixel and Galaxy lines for business, but Google is the one facing an uphill battle against Samsung’s dominance in the smartphone industry.

There’s another big competitor that could drive down sales of the Pixel 4A, and it’s Google’s next mid-tier Pixel device due out this fall: The 4A 5G. Not a lot is known about the 5G version of the Pixel 4A, but it’s only going to cost $150 more than the just-released Pixel 4A. Anyone considering a mid-tier Android device who is interested in the Pixel 4A may be better served by waiting a few more months for the Pixel 4A with 5G. 

Additional resources:

Why should businesses and professionals consider the Pixel 4A?

Despite some downsides, there are a lot of reasons why the Google Pixel 4A would make a good business device for both individual users and organizations looking for a new bulk buy option for employees.

First off, there’s Google’s Titan M security chip, which is at the core of the Pixel 4A. Google describes the Titan M as “enterprise grade,” and it goes a long way toward securing devices. The Titan M is integrated into the bootloader to verify the OS hasn’t been maliciously modified and encrypt the device when it’s locked, and it uses secure APIs to ensure only trusted apps are running on the device. 

The Pixel 4A also comes with Google’s Personal Safety app, which can do things like automatically call 911 when a vehicle accident is detected, or schedule safety checks that automatically notify emergency contacts when the safety check notification isn’t acknowledged. Both of those features can be great for employees working in the field or in remote areas.

Call screening is also built into the Pixel 4A, and because it’s manufactured by Google, the device will always be one of the first to receive Android updates, which can mean vital security patches get to sensitive devices more quickly. 

Lastly, there aren’t any customization options. That may sound like a drawback, but when the only Pixel 4A you can get is black, with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage, there are no special orders to fill–it’s one-device-fits-all, which makes things easier for purchasing.

The Pixel 4A is also supposed to get “all day battery life.” Google didn’t qualify what that means, but in CNET’s testing, the Pixel 4A averaged around 18 hours and 45 minutes of battery life. 

Additional resources:

When and where will the Pixel 4A be available?

The Google Pixel 4A is available for preorders from Google now, and will ship out beginning on August 20, 2020. It will be available on Verizon, Google Fi, or unlocked without a carrier.

The Pixel 4A will be available for purchase at launch in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. Google also plans to release the Pixel 4A in India soon.

Additional resources

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5 tips for using Google Meet on an iPad

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A few tips to help you access Google Meet quickly, improve your image framing, access other apps, and even talk-to-type in chat.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Starting in mid-2020, more people turned to Google Meet than ever before. People who needed to work, teach, or learn from home discovered that Meet delivers a secure and reliable video conferencing service. Google also made Meet available for anyone to use, so that anyone with a Google account could use the service, which had originally been built for G Suite customers.

A significant number of people chose to use Google Meet on an iPad. With an excellent camera, display, solid battery life, and an easy-to-carry size, the iPad works well as a highly portable tablet for video conferencing. Of course, it helps that you can use an iPad with a keyboard, touchpad, or a mouse, that Google Meet lets you turn on captions, and that you can present your screen from Meet on an iPad.

The following tips assume you have the Google Meet app installed on your iPad, you’ve signed in, and are familiar with the basics of Google Meet. If you’re not familiar, explore Google’s own Google Meet guide. These tips may help you refine how you use Google Meet on your iPad.

Move Google Meet to the Dock 

If you use Google Meet often, move it to the iPad Dock for fast access to the app. Tap and hold Meet on a home screen, then drag it down to the Dock. Once it is in the Dock, swipe up from the bottom of your iPad screen any time to bring up the Dock. If you use a keyboard, Option-Command-D also brings up the Dock.

Review framing and lighting before you Meet

When you tap the Google Meet app, it displays a preview of your video. Use this opportunity to check your positioning and lighting before you start or join a meeting.

You may need to do a bit of adjusting to present yourself in the best framing. Typically, I try to frame my head and shoulders in the center of the view–with my eyes about a third of the way from the top of the screen. In most cases, I suggest you use the iPad in landscape orientation, positioned at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Since the camera is on the left side of the iPad when in landscape orientation, this generally means that the iPad needs to be moved a bit to the right, not directly in front of you. 

A box, a few books, or an adjustable stand can help you get the iPad high enough off the table to provide a level view. Without these, you’ll provide a bit of an up-the-nose view if you set your iPad on a table and use a standard cover, Smart Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, or a Magic Keyboard. (Figure A)

Figure A

Before you start or join a meeting, adjust your iPad to improve framing and lighting. The best positioning might be slightly lower than eye level, as shown here on the right. An adjustable stand or a box or books can help. A typical tabletop placement (e.g., the middle and left images), will frame your face at an angle.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Also take a moment to check the lighting–avoid bright lights directly behind you (e.g., a window). If you have smart lights, adjust the lighting to fit your taste. If you happen to use Hue Lights, you might try the Concentrate default setting.

Long-press to Meet directly

If you’re confident of your video setup, or just want to start Meet quickly, you may choose to start Meet directly: Tap, hold until options display, then tap either Start A New Meeting or Enter A Meeting Code, and you’re in (Figure B). This long-press method skips the preview step and works well when you use your iPad to meet in a familiar place.

Figure B

Tap and hold the Google Meet app icon for fast access to either Start A New Meeting or Enter A Meeting Code.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Try Google Meet in Split View

Google Meet supports Split View, which means you may select and drag-and-drop another app to either side of the screen during a meeting. This can be useful if you want to refer to items from Google Drive (e.g., a Google Doc), a website, or any other app when you meet. (Figure C)

Figure C

Google Meet works in Split View, as show here with Meet on the left and Chrome on the right.

When you work with Google Meet in Split View, the app automatically turns your video view off. Video from other viewers continues, as does your audio stream. You may continue to talk, but your webcam will stop while Split View is active. You may re-enable video after you switch Google Meet back to full screen mode.

Talk-to-type in chat

The chat feature within Google Meet lets you type a comment on the side. It’s a great way to share an idea or thought, but not interrupt the person who is speaking. The chat comments may be shared with everyone or, with a mention, directed to a specific person.

Since the chat feature works with Apple’s keyboard, it is possible to dictate text into chat (Figure D).  Before you do this, you need to tap the microphone in Google Meet to mute your microphone–you also will likely want to mute your video. If other meeting participants see you speaking, they may think you’re trying to speak to the group.

Figure D

You may dictate text into chat within Google Meet. Make sure to mute your microphone and turn off your video before you try this.

With both your microphone and video muted, tap the chat icon, then tap in the chat field. Tap the microphone on the on-screen keyboard, then say whatever you want to appear in the chat field. 

Note: If you have a connected keyboard, the microphone may not be displayed. To access it, tap and hold the downward arrow in the lower-right corner of the iPad screen to bring up the on-screen keyboard. Then, if necessary, tap the emoji icon to cycle through to a keyboard with the microphone available to the left of the space bar. 

Review the text carefully and make any corrections needed before you tap Send. When finished with chat, re-enable your microphone and video when appropriate and desired. This can be a great way to add a comment in chat without having to type.

What’s your experience? 

Which of the above tips do you use most often when you use Google Meet on an iPad? What other Google Meet tips and tricks do you find most helpful? Let me know your thoughts and tips, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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How to make a graph in Google Sheets

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Learn how to create and customize a visual display of your data in Google Sheets or use the =SPARKLINE function to make a mini chart in a spreadsheet cell.

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How to collaborate with Markdown in Google Docs and Google Drive

how-to-collaborate-with-markdown-in-google-docs-and-google-drive

Add-ons make it possible to convert a Google Doc to Markdown or preview a Google Doc with Markdown. Plus, third-party apps let you collaborate on a Markdown file, then save it to Google Drive.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Technical writers, bloggers, and journalists, among others, typically collaborate with multiple people to write documents for the web. Talk to writers and they’ll often mention two very different tools: Google Docs and Markdown.

Google Docs was built for collaboration. Type doc.new in Chrome in a desktop-class browser, then select the Share button to invite other people to edit. When finished, you might download, share the link, or print the Doc. As a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get word processor, Google Docs displays text and images as they will appear when printed.

Markdown was created for people who write for the web. Open your favorite Markdown editor, type text, and add a few web-friendly formatting indicators (e.g.: # Header, [Link](https://…), *Italic*, Bold, etc.). Use the add-on to preview how your text will display on the web. When finished, enter your content in a Markdown-friendly content management system or export it as HTML. Unlike a Google Doc, a Markdown file is a plain text file with both text and format commands displayed.

SEE: Google Sheets: Tips and tricks (TechRepublic download) 

You can have both the collaboration capabilities of Google Docs and the human-readable, web-friendly plain text of Markdown. Two Google Docs add-ons, Docs to Markdown and Markdown Preview, let you combine the collaboration capabilities of Google Docs to write Markdown for the web. However, these add-ons require distinctly different levels of Markdown knowledge on the part of collaborators, as described below. Additionally, at least two third-party apps–also covered below–offer the ability for multiple people to collaborate on a Markdown file, then place the finished file on Google Drive.

The following add-ons, apps, and approaches give you a variety of ways to collaborate with colleagues to make Markdown files.

Write as usual in a Google Doc, then convert

The Docs to Markdown add-on offers the ability to convert a standard Google Doc into Markdown (Figure A). People may collaborate within a Google Doc as usual: Suggest and/or make edits, add comments, save versions, and format text. Make sure to encourage your collaborators to use paragraph styles, where appropriate. For example, in this section the “Write as usual in a Google Doc, then export” is text that I selected and applied the Header 2 paragraph style. If I had simply adjusted the size and made the text bold, the Markdown export would not convert the text as a Header. 

Figure A

The Docs to Markdown add-on lets people collaborate and edit a Google Doc, as usual, then convert the Doc to Markdown or HTML. With this approach, people do not need to know Markdown to edit. The conversion process does work a bit better when people properly apply paragraph and text styles in the Google Doc.

Open the Docs to Markdown page in the Google Marketplace to install the add-on. If you are a G Suite administrator, you may choose Domain Install, to make the add-on available to everyone in the domain, or Individual Install, to install the add-on for your own use.

When you are ready to convert a Google Doc to Markdown:

1. Open a Google Doc in a desktop-class web browser.

2. By default the add-on converts the entire document. To convert only a portion of text, select the text you want to convert.

3. Select Add-Ons, then choose Docs To Markdown, then Convert.

4. Modify any checkbox options, as needed or desired.

5. Select either the Markdown or HTML button. The system will place the converted content in the selected format within the text field below the options.

6. Place your cursor anywhere within the converted text, click, then select all of the converted content (e.g., Ctrl-A) and copy it (e.g., Ctrl-C).

7. Paste the converted text into your preferred destination (e.g., a content management system field, a plain text file, etc.).

Write Markdown in a Google Doc and preview

The Markdown Preview add-on assumes that the text within a Google Doc has been written in Markdown (Figure B). 



Figure B

The Markdown Preview add-on assumes that the text in your Google Doc uses Markdown, with # for headers, *around items to indicate bold,and links displayed in human-readable form, such as [TechRepublic](https://techrepublic.com). The add-on provides a Markdown preview, much as you might find in a Markdown editor app.

As such, this add-on functions much like a preview pane in a Markdown editor. You and your collaborators will need to enter Markdown format text within your Google Doc. For example, unlike above, where you would select text and then apply the Header 2 paragraph style, you would need to write:

## Write Markdown in a Google Doc and preview

The two # tags at the start of the line indicate Header 2 in Markdown. 

For people familiar with Markdown, this approach gives you a great deal of flexibility and control. You may enter and edit text as if it is Markdown, and also have access to Google Docs’ version history and comment capabilities.

Open the Markdown Preview page in the Google Marketplace to install the add-on. If you are a G Suite administrator, you may choose Domain Install, to make the add-on available to everyone in the domain, or Individual Install, to install the add-on for your own use.

When you are ready to preview the contents of your Google Doc as Markdown:

1. Open your Google Doc in a desktop class web browser.

2. Select Add-Ons, then choose Markdown Preview, then Show Preview.

3. The system will treat the contents of your Google Doc as Markdown and display it in the sidebar to the right of your Doc.

4. Review the results. Edit your Google Doc to reflect any needed or desired changes, then repeat the process.

5. Once the Markdown Preview displays as you wish, select the contents of your Google Doc (e.g. Ctrl-A) and copy it (e.g., Ctrl-C).

6. Paste the converted text into your preferred destination (e.g., a content management system field, a plain text file, etc.).

Collaborate in a third-party app, save to Google Drive

Two third-party apps, Draft and IA Writer, also offer the ability to collaborate on a Markdown format file and then save the results to Google Drive (Figure C).

Figure C

Draft (left) and IA Writer for Android (right) let you collaborate in Markdown, then save the final file to Google Drive. DraftIn.com, a browser-based app, lets you export your file to Google Drive in Markdown format. The Android version of IA Writer, displayed here on a Chromebook, lets you share a file from the Android app, then collaborate online in a browser. When you end online collaboration, IA Writer prompts you to save the file and lets you save it to a connected storage service, such as Google Drive.

Draft offers a web-based app with version control that provides the owner of a document complete control over whether to accept or reject all changes made by collaborators. You may export your file from Draft in Text or Markdown format to Google Drive (or several other storage services). 

The IA Writer Android app lets you connect to Google Drive as a storage source and also offers an online collaboration option. Create a new IA Writer file, choose the Android Share icon, then choose Collaborate Online. This creates a collaborative version of the file that you may open in a browser. Share the link to the file with your collaborators. All collaborators may make edits, until you choose to end sharing. When you end sharing, you’ll be prompted to save the file. You can save the edited file on Google Drive (or elsewhere). 

Other options?

Outside of Google Drive, many people use Git with various apps and services for version control of Markdown files. The scope of these setups is beyond the focus of this article, but to explore a few more technical Markdown collaboration options, see IA Writer with Working Copy, iCloud Drive, and BitBucket or Working Copy, iCloud, and GitHub (iOS and iPadOS), Typora with GitHub (Windows, Linux, and macOS), or VS Code, Jotterpad, Dropbox, and GitHub (Windows and Android).

Do you use either the Docs to Markdown or Markdown Preview add-ons? Are there other collaborative Markdown apps and systems you use that work well? Let me know what your experience has been when collaborating with others on Markdown files. Share your thoughts either in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber). 

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Google Cloud adds 11 security features to G Suite

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The updates include BIMI in Gmail, better protection in Meet, phishing protections in Chat, and more.

Image: Google

Google Cloud announced 11 new G Suite security features on Tuesday. The updates aim to help IT administrators more effectively manage and secure devices within the admin console, according to a press release.

SEE: Zero trust security: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

With most organizations still working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, online collaboration tools are critical to how companies communicate and work. The daily usage of Google Hangouts Meet, for example, was 25 times higher in March than it was in January, indicating how much users are relying on this tech.    

This dependence makes the security of those apps even more important, because employees are now working with confidential company data and personal information from afar. 

The Google Cloud upgrades optimize security across G Suite’s key products: Gmail, Meet, and Chat. Here are the major updates aiming to keep remote workers secure.

BIMI standard in Gmail

Email has become a crucial element to successful working from home communication, leading cybercriminals to use inboxes as new avenues for attack. Google said in April that it blocked 18 million COVID-19 themed phishing emails in the span of one week. 

To help ensure emails are coming from trusted sources, Google Cloud announced the pilot of its Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) in Gmail. The BIMI pilot will allow organizations that authenticate emails using DMARC to validate ownership of their company logos and securely send them to Google. 

Once the authenticated emails are vetted by Google’s other anti-abuse tests, Gmail will then  begin displaying the logo within the Gmail UI. 

This authentication provides peace of mind to users that the source of their emails are reliable. Additionally, senders will be able to tout their brand trust and offer customers more immersive experiences, according to the release.

“For organizations that want to create a trusted brand presence over email, BIMI is a great opportunity, incentivizing them to implement strong authentication, which in turn will lead to a safer, more trusted email ecosystem for everyone,” said Seth Blank, chair of the AuthIndicators Working Group and vice president of standards and technologies at Valimail, in the release.

The BIMI pilot will be released in the next few weeks with a limited number of senders and DigiCert and Entrust Datacard to validate logo ownership.  

More controls for Meet hosts

Available first for consumer and G Suite for Education accounts, Google is giving meeting hosts more authority over who can “knock” to join their meetings. This feature builds on existing controls requiring those not included on the calendar invite to explicitly knock to ask if they can be admitted in the meeting. 

Once an attendee is ejected from a meeting, they won’t be able to try to join the same meeting again through knocking, unless the host were to reinvite them. And, if a knocking request from a user is denied multiple times, the user will be automatically blocked from sending more requests to join, according to the release.

Hosts are also given advanced safety locks to better protect meetings. With safety locks, hosts can decide which methods of joining a meeting will require users to obtain clear approval to join, whether it be via calendar invite, phone, etc.

With safety locks, all users not logged into a Google account who are attempting to join a meeting will be blocked, implementing the  requirement that the host joins first. 

Specific safety locks will allow the host to control the level of participant interactivity within the meeting. The chat lock and present lock, for example, will let hosts control which attendees can chat and present during the meeting. 

The purpose of these new features is to prevent a cyberattackers from guessing a meeting code, entering the meeting, and engaging in brute-force attacks. Even if a malicious user still somehow entered the event, users can still report it directly within the meeting, according to the release.

Chat security features 

Google announced it is extending the existing phishing protections built in Gmail to Chat. If a link is sent to a user via Chat, it will be checked against real-time data from Safe Browsing and flagged if believed to be malicious. In the next few weeks, users will be able to report and block Chat Rooms they suspect cybercriminals to be in, according to the release.

Through Chat security signals, Google can automatically detect and limit abusive content. If a user receives a spammy invitation, for example, the message will be classified as spam and automatically blocked. 

Easier management for admins 

The last group of announcements Google made aimed to improve control for admins to help them keep their organizations secure. 

Google redesigned the devices page in the G Suite admin console to have more intuitive configuration for device management, quickly displaying  the number of devices managed by  each service.

Additionally the company is launching its integration with Apple Business Manager to give G Suite Enterprise, G Suite Enterprise Essentials, Cloud Identity Premium, and G Suite Enterprise for Education Suite admins the capability of security  distributing and managing company Apple iOS devices. 

G Suite is also getting an enhancement to its Data Loss Prevention feature. To help prevent unauthorized access to data, admins use the automated information rights management (IRM) controls to avoid data exfiltration by blocking users from downloading, printing, or copying Google Drive docs, sheets, and slides that hold sensitive content.  

The controls associated with the Data Loss Prevention rules set by the company and admins  can run a complete scan of files with Google Doc and automatically enable the tools for users, according to the release.

Google is also making it easier for admins to control app access. Admins are already able to decide which third-party apps can access users’ G Suite data via OAuth 2.0, but with App access control, they can block apps from accessing G Suite services through API without creating a complete allow list for each app, which requires access to G Suite data.

The new features are now available in Beta to Beta to G Suite Enterprise, G Suite Enterprise Essentials, and G Suite Enterprise for Education customers, as stated in the release. 

For more check out G Suite is getting an overhaul that makes Gmail your “home for work” on TechRepublic. 

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7 Google Calendar hacks to supercharge your productivity

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Google developers are adding powerful features to Calendar. Learn how to take advantage of them.

The passage of time, calendar

Image: iStockphoto/KangeStudio

Google’s Calendar software may be the most popular in the world, but it is also a product of the 21st century. We don’t write big books of features anymore and when we do, most people won’t read them. That leaves us using just a small fraction of the features available in our productivity software.

And Google Calendar is productivity software. 

Below, I’ll list seven little-known features of Google Calendar you can use to supercharge your productivity, including how to publish your calendar online so other people can schedule meetings with you.

Share Calendars

Bouncing between different schedules can be difficult, especially if one is published on a physical calendar and another is in Google’s cloud. As the world wakes up from the coronavirus pandemic, work from home is becoming the norm for technical work, making personal and professional lives even more intertwined. 

When I started this journey, I gave my personal Gmail account permission to view my work calendar, and even display them together. Open your calendar to find these features. To share a calendar, go to calendar.google.com, find My Calendars in the left-middle to bottom, click the three-dots icon, then Settings And Sharing (Figure A). After that, scroll down to share with specific people and add people. While setting these features, you can consider the option to color code meetings and times.

Figure A

Matthew Heusser

Color code meetings

Every meeting has a color default, but you can change it. You can color code by priority. For example, you might have red for non-negotiable meetings, yellow for interruptible but heads-down work, and green for planned discretionary time. Yes, knowledge workers do need to use the restroom and take breaks. Or, you might make blue personal and brown work, avoiding the priority metaphor altogether. Figure A shows the color codes you can use. 

Enable working hours

With the pandemic, it can be appealing to flex your daytime hours then work after dinner or bedtime for little ones. Sadly, the people scheduling meetings might not know that. If the company uses Google Calendar, you can set your working hours so people won’t book when you don’t want to work. To set working hours, click the gear icon to get to Settings and scroll to Working Hours–you may need to click on Advanced. This way, when someone tries to book you, they will see you are not available. This is a bit like blocking lunch, but it also prevents accidental 3: 00 a.m. meetings from someone on another continent, without making a meeting called “sleeping.”

Email meeting attendees

Yesterday, I ran a Zoom meeting with 26 invites; 10 people attended. Many of the people were using Zoom for the first time, so I wanted to send up a follow-up email with some Zoom tips and agenda. In addition, I wanted to send some follow-up materials.

There is an email option, but it is not when you edit the meeting. Instead, when you click on the meeting and it displays within your calendar, you will see the envelope icon. Click on that envelope to email the invitees (Figure B). You can also combine selections of people who have accepted, declined (change their minds), or not replied yet.

Figure B

Learn the keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a sure way to cut the amount of time doing a task. When the main screen is up, you can type a single letter to change it. Press:

s – Settings

c – Create event

q – Quick add event

w – For week view

m – For month view

a – For agenda

t – Move to current date/time

Agenda view 

The Agenda view can be a helpful way to start the day. It gives you an overview of all the meetings and tasks listed for that day and gives you an indication of where you are at in the day (Figure C).

Figure C

Commands are not case sensitive so there’s no need to press Shift. Google Help lists the entire list of potential shortcuts, along with how to turn it off if accidental key presses are a problem.

Email meeting options 

One of the most painful, unproductive things in the world is the overly polite meeting scheduling. First, you ask, then they ask you what times, then you suggest a time that doesn’t work for them, and on and on. If one of those people procrastinates a bit, the meeting times will actually fly by. If they don’t, the proposed meetings may be too far out. Add in consideration of time zones and the whole thing is a mess. When proposing a meeting, just email three options. Better yet, publish your calendar and let the other person pick.

Publish your calendar

There are a handful of tools to publish your calendar. Calendly integrates with you Gmail, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, so people can see when you are available and schedule a meeting on their terms. I learned about Calendly through my colleague, Raj Subrameyer, a consultant who was using it for his business. If you just want to send people to a web page to book their own meetings, the product starts with a free tier to experiment with. 

I’ve been using SharpSpring for this for close to a year. Despite the hundreds of dollars a month price tag, the only feature I really use is calendar setting, and that arguably paid for itself. By combining my Google Calendar with Calendly with Zoom, I was able to offer published self-service meetings, with a custom web page, in about 10 minutes. The tool has integrations with PayPal and QuickBooks, so I could charge for meetings, but instead I set up 15, 30, and 60 minute bookings at no cost; you can even reserve some time with me.

Drop the web page address in your email, let people schedule their own time with you, color code your meetings to keep them all on one calendar, use keyboard shortcuts, and you could easily cut your calendar time by 20%. Combine that with good calendar and good email hygiene, and you can turbo-charge your productivity.

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Google can now detect undersea earthquakes with its submarine fiber optic network

google-can-now-detect-undersea-earthquakes-with-its-submarine-fiber-optic-network

Two researchers have developed a method of detecting undersea earthquakes and tsunamis using technology that already exists on Google’s seafloor networking cables.

google-undersea-fiber.jpg

Image: Google

Researchers at Google Global Networking have found a way to detect undersea earthquakes using technology that already exists in undersea cable networks.

Valey Kamalov and Mattia Cantono reported their findings in a blog post, saying that their findings “could be useful for earthquake and tsunami warning systems around the globe.”

Using optical fibers to detect earthquakes and other seismic events isn’t a new idea, the pair said in their post, but previous techniques were limited to distances of 100 km or less, and required specially designed fibers and sensing equipment. 

“We’ve developed a technique that works over tens of thousands of kilometers [and] relies on equipment that is present on the vast majority of the world’s existing fiber optic systems,” they write.

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Google reportedly has the largest submarine cable network in the world, totaling nearly 120,000 km of seafloor fiber optics over 12 different cable systems. “By collaborating with the global subsea cable community, we may be able to improve the world’s ability to detect and research seismic activity around the world,” the blog post said.

How existing fiber optic technology can detect earthquakes

Kamalov and Cantono got their idea from a 2018 paper that described using state of polarization (SOP) change in fiber optic signals to detect seismic events. SOP changes occur due to any sort of mechanical disturbance in fiber optic cables, and software that digitally corrects that distortion is standard at fiber optic endpoints.

By narrowing in on the spectral signatures typical to earthquakes, the pair determined, they could—in theory—detect earthquake signatures anywhere on Google’s undersea cable network.

On Jan. 28, 2020, Kamalov and Cantono detected the earthquake that struck Jamaica, despite Google’s nearest cable being 1,500 km away, and had their observations confirmed by California Institute of Technology geophysics professor Zhongwen Zhan.

A second earthquake originating in the East Pacific Rise, 2,000 km from a Google cable, was detected on March 22, and then on March 28, they detected a quake off the coast of Valparaiso, Chile. 

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Zhan’s review of the team’s data found that it was able to detect pressure changes in the ocean, which meant the system could detect tsunamis as well. “This is particularly exciting because today, most tsunami detection equipment is either on shore, or scattered throughout the ocean. The former doesn’t give coastal communities enough time to evacuate, and the latter is limited by the speed of the traveling wave,” the blog said.

Kamalov and Cantono say that their findings are hardly indicative of a finished product, and that much remains to be done. “First, scientists will need to better understand the deluge of complex data that will be generated by monitoring SOP,” they said, which may be a task better suited to machine learning and AI. 

They also said that this isn’t a replacement to existing seismic detection systems, but rather “a source of complementary information to enable early warnings for earthquakes and tsunamis.”

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