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Google Meet will soon be a free video chat service everyone can use – Chrome Unboxed

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It wasn’t that long ago that Google Hangouts Meet became simply Google Meet. We talked about that transition and what it likely means for the remains of Hangouts across the board already, so we’re not here to talk about that. Instead, the news of the day is that Google is making its G Suite Enterprise and Education video chat service – Google Meet – available for the general public over the next couple weeks. For free. For everyone.

Up to this point, Google Meet has been a product that was built for Enterprise and Education users, giving them a secure, flexible video meeting platform that flat-out delivers. We’ve internally used Google Meet for quite some time and I’ve even transitioned most group meetings I’ve had in quarantine over to Google Meet. As long as I have a G Suite account, I can invite and admit whoever I choose, with or without them having a Google account. The stability and security of this platform has been great and there has been no time limit on calls, so it has worked far better for my needs than competitors like Zoom.

Google is now rolling out the ability for any Google user to spin up a Meet call with all the same security and stability that G Suite users currently enjoy. This means calls of up to 100 users can last as long as needed on a platform that requires no downloads, no extensions, and can run completely in the browser. Google touts this as a far more secure approach to video conferencing, and the sheer number of users flocking to the service evidence that. They are reporting a 30X growth in peak daily usage since January, hosting a staggering 3 billion minutes of video calls per day. Oh, and they are adding a cool 3 million new users a day, too.

Seeing this growth and knowing they have a superior product that has been built out over time in a controlled environment, it seems Google is ready to finally get this superlative service out to the masses. As more and more of us are moving to video chats for everyday things, Google needs to move quickly on this. Zoom has captured the collective public mind share for video chats, but as we’ve highlighted prior, its just not the best platform for it. Up until now, Google didn’t really offer an alternative. Duo is great, but it is for small groups and really tailored to one-on-one calls like Facetime.

<!– –>While Zoom has its flaws and is working hard to fix them, they left the door open for Microsoft and Google both to respond, and both are doing so. While Microsoft can leverage its Office Suite muscle to push users to Teams, Google is now doing the same with its Gmail dominance, making Google Meet a baked-in part of the Gmail and Google Calendar experience as this all rolls out. Users ready to start or schedule a meeting will be able to do so from inside Google’s already-existing products and this will help adoption happen even faster.<!– –>

If you’ve not used Google Meet before, here’s a quick rundown on how it will work. Google will require the initiator of the meeting to have a Google account; that much is not going to change. All the other participants won’t be required to, but there has to be one Google account to get things started. You’ll be able to schedule a Google Meet in Gmail or in the Calendar and then either send out invites to other users or simply send the URL for the meeting. For those who are explicitly invited, they can simply enter once the meeting starts. For those who have the link, they will need to be granted access by default. No ‘Zoombombing’ here. Inside the meeting you can chat, present your screen, and change layout preferences. Newly added is the ability to see a Zoom-like grid as well.

<!– –>What’s been probably the most impressive part of Google Meet, however, is the stability and usability of the platform. With nothing to install or download, it is easily the best quality video chat we’ve used. Now that it is free for everyone to leverage, I imagine it will really skyrocket in its use. From our time with it up to now, that is only a good thing. Look for Google Meet to begin showing up in your account over the next few weeks and, when it does, give it a spin. You’ll love it.

<!– –>SOURCE: The Keyword

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Cyberattack exposes lack of required defenses on U.S. pipelines

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The shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by a ransomware attack highlights a systemic vulnerability: Pipeline operators have no requirement to implement cyber defenses.

The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.

But the country’s 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km) of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators, experts said.

“Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the ever-increasing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors,” Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said.

Protections could include requirements for encryption, multifactor authentication, backup systems, personnel training and segmenting networks so access to the most sensitive elements can be restricted.

FERC’s authority to impose cyber standards on the electric grid came from a 2005 law but it does not extend to pipelines.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. oil products pipeline and source of nearly half the supply on the East Coast, has been shut since Friday after a ransomware attack the FBI attributed to DarkSide, a group cyber experts believe is based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

The outage has led to higher gasoline prices in the U.S. South and worries about wider shortages and potential price gouging ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.

Colonial did not immediately respond to a query about whether cybersecurity standards should be mandatory.

The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group said it was talking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Energy Department and others to understand the threat and mitigate risk.

THIN STAFFING

Cyber oversight of pipelines falls to the TSA, an office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has provided voluntary security guidelines to pipeline companies.

The General Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, said in a 2019 report that the TSA only had six full-time employees in its pipeline security branch through 2018, which limited the office’s reviews of cybersecurity practices.

The TSA said it has since expanded staff to 34 positions on pipeline and cybersecurity. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports mandatory protections.

When asked by reporters whether the Biden administration would put in place rules, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it was discussing administrative and legislative options to “raise the cyber hygiene across the country.”

President Joe Biden is hoping Congress will pass a $2.3 billion infrastructure package, and pipeline requirements could be put into that legislation. But experts said there was no quick fix.

“The hard part is who do you tell what to do and what do you tell them to do,” Christi Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said.

U.S. Representatives Fred Upton, a Republican, and Bobby Rush, a Democrat, said on Wednesday they have reintroduced legislation requiring the Department of Energy to ensure the security of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Such legislation could get folded into a wider bill.

The power grid is regulated by FERC, and mostly organized into nonprofit regional organizations. That made it relatively easy for legislators to put forward the 2005 law that allows FERC to approve mandatory cyber measures.

A range of public and private companies own pipelines. They mostly operate independently and lack a robust federal regulator.

Their oversight falls under different laws depending on what they carry. Products include crude oil, fuels, water, hazardous liquids and – potentially – carbon dioxide for burial underground to control climate change. This diversity could make it harder for legislators to impose a unified requirement.

Tristan Abbey, a former aide to Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who worked at the White House national security council under former President Donald Trump, said Congress is both the best and worst way to tackle the problem.

“Legislation may be necessary when jurisdiction is ambiguous and agencies lack resources,” said Abbey, now president of Comarus Analytics LLC.

But a bill should not be seen as a magic wand, he said.

“Standards may be part of the answer, but federal regulations need to mesh with state requirements without stifling innovation.”

 

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Marguerita Choy)

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U.S. senator asks firms about sales of hard disk drives to Huawei

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A senior Republican U.S. senator on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Seagate Technology, and Western Digital Corp if the companies are improperly supplying Huawei with foreign-produced hard disk drives.

Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, said a 2020 U.S. Commerce Department regulation sought to “tighten Huawei’s ability to procure items that are the direct product of specified U.S. technology or software, such as hard disk drives.”

He said he was engaged “in a fact-finding process… about whether leading global suppliers of hard disk drives are complying” with the regulation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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Colonial Pipeline hackers stole data on Thursday

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The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down on Friday began their cyberattack against the top U.S. fuel pipeline operator a day earlier and stole a large amount of data, Bloomberg News reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The attackers are part of a cybercrime group called DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network in just two hours on Thursday, Bloomberg reported late Saturday, citing two people involved in the company’s investigation.

Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual U.S. business hours.

Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack that involved ransomware.

 

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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