Google Finds Russia-Backed Entities Placed Ads on YouTube, Gmail

Today’s topics include Russia-backed presidential election ads identified on YouTube and Gmail; FCC’s approval of Google’s Project Loon to help hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico; Microsoft’s decision to pull the plug on Windows 10 Mobile; and Forrester Research disclosing a limited website data breach.

Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, Google has acknowledged that Russian-connected agents bought tens of thousands of dollars' worth of politically motivated ads to run on Google’s platforms around the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

According to the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, the ads were published on YouTube, Gmail and Google Search to influence voters. The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook, according to Reuters.

A Google spokeswoman told Reuters that the company is "taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse [its] systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries.”

On Oct. 6, the Federal Communications Commission granted Alphabet an experimental license to operate its new Project Loon balloon-based communications system in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico.

Project Loon, developed by Alphabet’s X innovation lab, will provide LTE communications between stations on the ground by linking them to high-altitude balloons equipped with airborne repeaters.

“More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“We need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon … could help provide the people of Puerto Rico with access to cellular service to connect with loved ones and access life-saving information."

Microsoft has finally decided to pull the plug on Windows 10 Mobile, according to tweets on Oct. 8 from Joe Belfiore, Windows 10 vice president.

Belfiore admitted that the company is no longer developing new features or working on new hardware for the mobile operating system, acknowledging that Microsoft’s sliver of the smartphone market makes it an unattractive target for developers.

He noted that the "volume of [Windows 10 Mobile] users is too low for most companies to invest.” Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, told eWEEK, "The real loser here is not Microsoft ... but the Android handset makers.

If Windows had become a thriving alternative to Android and iOS, then they would have had far more leverage over Google, which could have resulted in much better economic terms as well as greater freedom."

Collectively, Android and iOS are poised to own 99.8 percent of the smartphone market by year's end. Only 0.2 percent of smartphones will be running operating systems from Microsoft and other vendors.

Forrester Research publicly admitted on Oct. 6 that it was the victim of a limited impact cyber-attack, in which attackers were able to gain access to content that was intended to be limited exclusively to clients.

There is no evidence that confidential client data was stolen, according to the company. Steven Peltzman, chief business technology officer at Forrester Research, commented in a blog post that his firm was able to detect the attackers and shut them out of the system.

"The incident triggered our system protocols and processes, allowing us to respond across our firm," Peltzman stated. "Other than the incidence response team itself, there was no disruption to the work we do for our clients."