Google: Here's how Google Meet beats 'zoombombing' trolls

Google outlines its security and compliance advantages over Zoom for video conferencing.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

After Microsoft took a swipe at Zoom over security and privacy, Google has now offered its take on how Google Meet blocks the 'zoombombing' pranksters who've struck Zoom meetings and classrooms in recent weeks. 

While ease-of-use has made Zoom the video-conferencing platform star in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, its security issues have become the main argument its larger rivals, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco, are employing against using it. 

Execs from Google's G Suite and Google Meet video-conferencing teams have now detailed how their product gets right what Zoom didn't on security and privacy but is now trying to fix, as it races to meet a massive surge in demand for its video-conferencing platform. 

Google Meets frustrates trolls' efforts to gatecrash a meeting by using automation to guess a video-conference meeting ID, which in Zoom's case is a 9-, 10- or 11-digit number. Instead, Google Meet uses a 25-character string for meeting IDs and restricts the ability of external participants to join a meeting 15 minutes before the meeting starts. 

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"External participants cannot join meetings unless they're on the calendar invite or have been invited by in-domain participants. Otherwise, they must request to join the meeting, and their request must be accepted by a member of the host organization," the Google execs say

Hijacked meetings have become one of the most concerning issues for Zoom users and are among the main reasons organizations like the New York City Department of Education have banned its use by teachers for online classrooms.  

Thanks to the pandemic and the need for easy video conferencing, Zoom is now a household name and its dedicated focus on video has allowed it to shine compared with established rivals like Google and Microsoft, which have both fumbled over video conferencing within larger product portfolios. 

Google has confused users with multiple overlapping messaging apps like Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet. Microsoft is now confusing users with Teams and Skype with the suggestion that Teams could replace Skype. 

Announcing Teams for consumers, a Microsoft exec recently said: "These new features are coming in preview to the Microsoft Teams mobile app in the coming months. In the meantime, we invite you to connect with friends and family through chat and video calling using Skype."

An internal Microsoft video that leaked in March revealed the Redmond company's concerns over the threat Zoom posed to Microsoft Teams. 

Microsoft Teams is usually cast as Microsoft's answer to Slack chat, but the Redmond company sees Zoom as an "emerging threat" to Teams' video conferencing. It warned resellers that Zoom salespeople were, in particular, targeting Microsoft customers who were sick of Skype for Business. 

Meanwhile, Skype for consumers hasn't seen the same rise in use under coronavirus lockdowns as Zoom. Last week Microsoft said 40 million people are now using Skype daily. That compares with Zoom, which says it has 200 million daily users now, up from 10 million in December 2019. It also says Teams has 44 million monthly active users, which could increase as Teams rolls out to consumers in the next few months.  

Microsoft also acknowledged that Zoom – whose founder Eric Yuan was a key developer of Cisco's WebEx video-conferencing product – had a ton of former WebEx salespeople targeting customers with expiring Cisco contracts. 

Cisco has also homed in on the security message for video conferencing, last week boasting that it had seen 240,000 online WebEx sign-ups over one day and that WebEx had doubled its average daily peak meeting load to 4.2 million meetings. 

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Cisco also reported over 3,300 organizations had signed up to its multi-factor authentication solution in the past week. Cisco says it has 300 million users, which is a different metric to monthly active users    

Google also highlights that Meet data is encrypted in transit between the client and Google for video meetings in the browser, in the Android and iOS apps, and in meetings with Google meeting hardware. 

Like Microsoft, Google has highlighted that its products are built with security by design in mind, and boasts that it meets various compliance certifications, including the FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which covers students.

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