Here's how to secure your email and avoid becoming a 'Petraeus'

Take a look at where Petraeus and Broadwell went wrong so you can better secure your email and protect your privacy online.

By , PC World |  Security, email security, privacy

It was a shock when David Petraeus--a respected and highly-decorated Army general--abruptly stepped down from his post as the director of the CIA earlier this week. It was even more of a jolt to learn that his resignation was due to an extramarital affair. But, the real story might be the fact that the affair came to light more or less accidentally as a result of poor email and privacy practices.

First, a little background on how things went down. The affair between David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell seems like something from the Showtime series "Homeland," or perhaps a James Bond plot line, but the events that led to the FBI investigation that uncovered the affair are a bit more "Fatal Attraction."

Broadwell sent anonymous threatening emails to another woman she considered to be competition for Petraeus' affection, and that woman--Jill Kelley--initiated the investigation that eventually unraveled the affair and led to the downfall of one of this generation's greatest American heroes.

I don't want to teach anyone how to cover their illicit tracks better, or how to have a more clandestine affair, but let's take a look at where Petraeus and Broadwell went wrong so you can understand how to cover your tracks better in general, and how to secure your email and protect your privacy online.

Hide your IP address

Broadwell thought she was being clever by sending emails from an anonymous Gmail account originating from different locations as she travelled about. What she failed to do, though, is hide her IP address.

Your IP address is the online equivalent of your fingerprints. In Petraeus's case, the email account he and Broadwell used was anonymous, but the FBI was able to trace the emails back to the source IP addresses--which turned out to be assigned to hotels. FBI agents simply compared the guest lists of the various source hotels to narrow down the potential suspects and determine that Paula Broadwell was coincidentally the only person it could be.

All of the major Web browsers include some sort of private mode, but private mode browsing does not obscure your IP address--it just prevents the browser from saving cached data or your browsing history. To hide your IP address, you need to connect using a VPN of some sort--like Anonymizer Universal. Keep in mind, though, that the VPN provider will still have a record of the true source IP that could be subpoenaed or surrendered upon a government request.

Use different email services

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