Reports: Petraeus's affair uncovered by string of email messages

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Prosecutors later found that Broadwell and Petraeus set up Gmail accounts to communicate with one another, though Petraeus registered his account under a pseudonym, according to the Journal, citing reports from U.S. officials. FBI agents had looked into whether someone might have hacked into Petraeus's email account or was posing as the CIA chief and sending explicit messages to Broadwell, The New York Times reported, though they ultimately determined that Petraeus authored the messages.

Petraeus's resignation over his extramarital affair with Broadwell sent shockwaves throughout Washington and tarnished his storied military career. One cybersecurity expert sounded alarm over the report that the spy chief used Gmail to communicate with Broadwell, saying the public cloud-based email platform "is not a secure mail application."

"I am shocked that the head of the Central Intelligence Agency would use it," Tom Kellermann, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro, said in an email to The Hill. "Public cloud-based email should not be utilized for sensitive communications."

But James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, countered that cause for concern.

"He sounds like many Americans, who believe that their email or social network entries are somehow private," Lewis said. 

-- This story was updated at 5:40 p.m. that clarified what emails were traced.