cybersecurity

As travelers gear up for the holidays, cybersecurity experts advise staying away from USB charging ports in airports and other public spaces, which could steal data from an unlocked device or even install malware.

But Engin Kirda, professor of computer science at Northeastern University, says it’s easy to take precautions — and unless you’re a diplomat or a CEO in a foreign country, you probably don’t need to stress out.

Scammers are always looking for more effective words. Most Americans have learned to be on their guard, and they're likely to suspect an overly aggressive phishing phone call from a fake credit card customer service agent speaking accented English.

For decades, the cybersecurity community has had a consistent message: Mixing the Internet and voting is a horrendous idea.

"I believe that's about the worst thing you can do in terms of election security in America, short of putting American ballot boxes on a Moscow street," howled Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on the Senate floor this year.

With the clock counting down to Election Day 2020, what are the FBI and other national security agencies doing to protect against the foreign interference that marred the 2016 campaign?

They say they're doing a lot.

Lessons learned

American officials acknowledge they were caught a bit flat-footed in 2016 by Russia's active measures operation. U.S. intelligence agencies saw various pieces of what the Russians were up to, officials say, but did not put it all together until it was too late.

Big Tech representatives met with law enforcement and intelligence officials to discuss how to align their efforts to defend the 2020 election.

Facebook and Microsoft confirmed the meeting, which took place at Facebook's campus in Menlo Park, Calif., on Wednesday.

The conversations — and the announcement that they took place — reflected a new consensus in the worlds of technology and national security about the need to prepare beforehand for disinformation or other influence operations aimed at the 2020 presidential race.

A group of guys are staring into a laptop, exchanging excited giggles. Every couple minutes there's an "oooooh" that morphs into an expectant hush.

The Las Vegas scene seems more like a college dorm party than a deep dive into the democratic process.

Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon are being tossed around. One is cracked open and spews foam all over a computer keyboard.

"That's a new vulnerability!" someone yells.

Foreign interference didn't begin in 2016. It didn't end with that election. And U.S. officials expect it to remain an issue through the 2020 elections as well.

Here's what you need to know.

Barring some kind of miraculous last-minute reprieve, Friday will be the last business day that the Federal Election Commission will be able to function for quite a while, leaving the enforcement of federal campaign finance laws unattended ahead of the 2020 election.

The commission's vice chairman, Matthew Petersen, announced his resignation earlier this week, to take effect at the end of the month. With Petersen gone, the FEC will be down to three members and won't have a quorum.

Updated on Sept. 19 at 10:23 a.m. ET

The popular Chinese messaging app WeChat is Zhou Fengsuo's most reliable communication link to China.

That's because he hasn't been back in over two decades. Zhou, a human rights activist, had been a university student in 1989, when the pro-democracy protests broke out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. After a year in jail and another in political reeducation, he moved to the United States in 1995.

Updated at 10 a.m. Wednesday ET

Texas is the latest state to be hit with a cyberattack, with state officials confirming this week that computer systems in 22 municipalities have been infiltrated by hackers demanding a ransom. A mayor of one of those cities said the attackers are asking for $2.5 million to unlock the files.

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