Email lessons from Gen. Petraeus' downfall

It may be easier than you think to trace emails, so be mindful of what you're sending

By , Computerworld |  Security, FBI

David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell

Commander of the International Security Assistance Force/U.S. Forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus shakes hands with author Paula Broadwell in this ISAF handout photo originally posted July 13, 2011. The FBI investigation that led to the discovery of CIA Director David Petraeus' affair with author Paula Broadwell was sparked by "suspicious emails" from her to another woman.

REUTERS/ISAF/Handout

Email is at the center of the scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus, one of the country's most decorated generals.

The incident, which has shined a spotlight on cyber harassment, online privacy and digital forensics, has left a lot of people wondering if the head of the country's intelligence community and his girlfriend, a former counterintelligence officer, can't keep their emails private, do most of us even stand a shot?

"The best way to protect yourself is to simply realize that privacy doesn't necessarily exist in the electronic world," said Dan Ring, a spokesman for the security company Sophos. "Simply put, if you don't want it out there in the world, don't put it in the electronic world."

Petraeus, who took over as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) just 14 months ago, announced his resignation last Friday, putting the blame on an extra-marital affair.

The affair, which reportedly was with Petraeus' biographer and Army reservist Paula Broadwell, came to light at the hands of an FBI investigation that had originally focused on a potential cybercrime.

This past summer, Jill Kelley, a fundraiser for the U.S. military, is reported to have told a friend in the FBI that she'd received five to 10 anonymous harassing emails. The FBI began to investigate.

What they found was a trail of emails between two people -- Petraeus and Broadwell -- who were trying to hide an affair.

Using a pseudonym, Petraeus had reportedly set up various email accounts, including Gmail accounts, that he used to send Broadwell messages. One email account was actually a shared account, created so they could leave each other draft messages.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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