Google shuts down its Cloud Print service after 10-year Beta

Google revealed plans to shut down Cloud Print, a cloud-based printing solution, at the end of 2020 permanently.

The company launched Cloud Print back in 2010 as a solution to print from any Internet connected device to compatible printers. The main benefit of the solution was that users did not have to install printer drivers on their client devices and that devices did not need to be in the same local network as the printer. The solution enabled printing on devices without official support from the printer’s manufacturer or drivers for that particular device.

On Windows users could install the Google Cloud Printer application to add cloud printing functionality to the operating system.

One of the downsides of Cloud Print was that documents had to be transferred to Google. Google stated that it kept a copy of the document only for as long as needed to complete the print job.

google shuts down cloud print

A support page on the Google website informs users about the upcoming termination of Cloud Print. According to the information on the page, Cloud Print will continue to function until December 31, 2020. Google will shut down the service on January 1, 2021 and that means that “devices across all operating systems will no longer be able to print using Google Cloud Print”.

Google lists a number of options on the support page, aimed specifically at Chrome OS administrators and users. The company recommends native printing which it says has improved significantly. Among the options are printing over USB or a local network through Common Unix Printing System, or Enterprise and Education specific native printing options.

Affected users may be able to use Google Cloud Print alternatives such as Free Mobility Print for Android.

Closing Words

It is not uncommon for Google to shut down products and the sheer reach of the company means that shutdowns affect a large number of customers. Google users affected by shutdowns may be more cautious when it comes to using new Google products (such as Stadia).  The decision to shut down Google Print will make things more complicated for some.

Now You: Have you used Cloud Print? What is your take on the shutdown?

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Google Password audits all your passwords to reveal weak, reused or compromised passwords

Google Password, an online service that stores passwords of user accounts, may now audit all stored passwords to reveal weak, reused or compromised passwords to the account owner.

The company announced the new feature on October 2, 2019 on the official Safety & Security blog alongside other privacy improvements to various Google-owned services and products.

Passwords get synchronized between Chrome installations using the online password manager if the user signs-in to Google Chrome and enables sync functionality in the browser.

password checkup

The new password auditing functionality is already available. Here is how you start an audit of your saved passwords using the Google Password manager:

  1. Load in your browser of choice. If you are not signed-in to a Google account you are asked to do so. The page that opens is the Security management page of the account.
  2. Scroll down on the page until you get to the “signing in to other sites” section at the bottom of the page. Select the “Password Manager” option there.
  3. The page that opens lists all saved passwords and a “password checkup” option at the top. Select the “check passwords” link underneath it.
  4. The next page reveals what the tool does (checks the security of stored passwords). Activate the “check passwords” button on the page.
  5. You are asked to enter the account password again. Click on Next once you have done so.
  6. Google analyzes the passwords and groups passwords into compromised, reused and weak lists on the results page.

password check compromised weak

Green indicates that no issue has been found, other colors indicate issues that need your attention. The screenshot above shows that two weak passwords were identified by Google.

A click on the down arrow next to the entry displays the accounts and an option to change the password for each of the accounts. You may click on the menu icon next to an entry to display options to view the password, update the saved password, or delete it.

The change password links opens the linked URL; you have to figure out how to change the password on the site manually at that point.

Google may not recognize that the password changed if you don’t use Chrome; you need to use the manual update password option in that case to get it to update.

Chrome password management improvements

Google published a Password Checkup extension for the company’s Chrome browser in February 2019 designed to inform users about password related issues.

The tool checks passwords when they are used against a database of leaked (and thus potentially compromised) passwords. Users are informed if passwords that they use are found in the database and encouraged to change these.

In August 2019, Google announced that it would integrate the password checker directly in the Chrome web browser.

Closing Words

Google is not the only browser maker that is improving password management and security capabilities. Mozilla launched Firefox Monitor in 2018 as a way to receive alerts about breaches and has plans to update the built-in password manager as well.

Options to check passwords and email addresses against leak databases are also available independently.

Now You: how do you manage passwords and keep an eye on them?

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Disable auto-invites to combat Google Calendar Spam

Google Calendar spam is not a new phenomenon; it has plagued Google Calendar users for years and spam seems to come and go in waves. Recently, users started to report an increase in Google Calendar spam. Spam comes in many forms but the two main categories fall into advertising and outright malicious messages.

Google Calendar customers who did not receive spam invites up until now may wonder how that invite got accepted in first place; it is easy to explain: Google Calendar has a feature that automatically adds invitations to Calendar.

All an attacker needs to do is send you an invite using the right format and et voila, the invite becomes visible in Google Calendar.

What makes this particularly problematic, besides the fact that this feature is opt-out and not opt-in, is that the mobile Google Calendar application does not even have the option to disable this.

Here is how you disable auto-invites in Google Calendar

google calendar disable auto invites

  1. Open the Google Calendar application in a browser on a desktop PC. If you try to open the Calendar website on a mobile device you may be redirected to the Calendar application automatically.
  2. Open the Settings menu when the website has loaded and select Settings from the context menu (you need to sign-in to your Google account).
  3. Select Event Settings from the menu on the left or scroll down to the Event settings section on the page.
  4. The setting “Automatically add invitations” needs to be adjusted. It is set to Yes by default which means that invitations are accepted automatically; this is the source of the spam that you receive on Google Calendar.
  5. Switch the value of the setting to “No, only show invitations to which I have responded”.

google calendar disable show declined events

If you still receive spam after making that change, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open the Google Calendar settings again on the desktop.
  2. Scroll down to the “View options” section or click on View Options in the sidebar to jump to the section on activation.
  3. Uncheck the “show declined events” option; this hides declined events in Calendar automatically.
  4. Scroll down to Events from Gmail.
  5. Disable “Automatically add events from Gmail to my Calendar”.

Note that you may need to disable the “show declined events” on the mobile Calendar application as well if you still see those there and use it.

Disabling automatic invites could make things a little less comfortable for Google customers who share calendars with others and used to use the auto-invite system in the past.

Now You: Do you use Google Calendar? Did you receive spam as of lately? (via Caschy)

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Not everyone likes the new Google Images preview format

More and more users of Google Images, the image search engine operated by Google, are switched over to a new display format and design.

Google Images is a popular search engine to find photos and other imagery. The company changed Google Images significantly several times in recent time. It removed the View Image button in 2018 and revealed in 2019 that it would introduce what it called shoppable ads to the image search service.

Chrome and Firefox users could install View Image extensions to bring back the functionality or switch to a search engine like Startpage that still featured the functionality.

While it is almost certain that browser extensions or scripts will become available to restore the old Google Images layout, none seem to be available at the time of writing.

The core change moves the preview of the selected image search result from a centered preview area to the right side.

google images right side preview

The image preview size remains the size for the majority of images and it is possible to browse other images returned as results while the preview window is open. Users may also notice that the preview area is fixed which means that less “jumping” takes place when new results are selected from the list of search results.

One point of criticism is that the new layout limits the size of the preview. While that is not a problem for small images, it is one for larger images, e.g. 1080p images or 4K photos. The preview area has a fixed size and while it changes based on the size of the browser window, it is not possible to change the search results to preview area ratio on Google Images.

Related images displayed underneath the preview are larger than before, but fewer are displayed next to each other on the screen.

Closing Words

I don’t use Google Images anymore as I prefer the image search of the Startpage search engine and Bing search engine. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Bing’s preview feature as it displays the selected image in an overlay. I do like Bing’s video search functionality better than that of YouTube, but that is another story entirely.

Now You: what is your take on the new Google Images preview layout?

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Any Google Photos media (photos, videos) you share becomes public

Google Photos is a popular photo hosting service and application that millions of people use on a daily basis. Part of its popularity comes from the fact that the service is deeply integrated into most Android devices.

Google Photos supports management features including options to view photos, create albums, and share photos or albums with others.

Sharing works fluently; if you use the web version, all you have to do is pick one or multiple photos or albums, and hit the share button to get started.

You can create links to the selection, share the selection with select Google contacts, or on Facebook or Twitter.

share google photos public

Tech savvy Internet users may well be aware that the selected photos need to be publicly available if the “create link” sharing option is selected. They too, might not know however, that this is also the case if you share photos with Google contacts.

In fact, regardless of which share option you select, all photos and video files that you share are publicly accessible the moment you execute the command.

You can try it out yourself by opening this URL. I shared an image with Ghacks’ author Mike, but you will notice that you can view it just fine.

Google confirms this on a support page but does not highlight the fact in the share interface where it would be more appropriate.

Google uses obfuscation of the address as the only defense against unauthorized access. The structure of the URL makes it unlikely that anyone may guess the URL to access photos unless a flaw in the algorithm is found to improve predictions.

Obfuscation may prevent brute force attempts but third-parties may get hold of links to shared media on Google Photos through other means such as network monitoring, accidental sharing, or unencrypted email.

Anyone with access to the link may view the shared media, even if they are not signed in to a Google Account.

Robert Wiblin published his findings on Medium noting that Google Photos does not reveal the fact to the customer. There is also no information that Google customers may look at to determine how often and by whom the shared photos were viewed.

To make matters worse, the service offers no information on how shared media can be disabled so that others may not access it anymore. Google Photos users need to access the sharing menu,, hover over the album, click on the menu that appears, and select “delete album” to delete the album or hunt down the option to stop sharing the link in the album options.

Google Photos uses a different system than Google Drive even though the interfaces look very similar. When you share a file using Google Drive, only selected recipients may access it initially unless the user explicitly changes the visibility.

Closing Words

There is nothing wrong with sharing media using Google Photos provided that you know that these images and videos will only be protected by the URL. Google should make this clear right there in the share menu and maybe consider integrating the Google Drive share functionality to make it possible to share photos and videos with individuals and groups without making them public.

Google users who don’t want shared media to become publicly accessible may want to consider using Google Drive instead for the sharing, or use third-party services like Microsoft’s OneDrive which support password protections and expiration dates.

Now You: What is your take on this?

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