We'll probably never know the entire story of the Petraeus Affair—the CIA isn't known for its candor. But we do know that one of the most powerful men in the world, tasked with keeping the greatest secrets of the United States, wasn't able to hide his personal covert action over Gmail. That's really bad. The good news is, you can do better.
Disclaimer! You probably shouldn't cheat. It's a really shitty thing to do. But, that said, everyone's lives are different, and there are people who have legitimate reasons to hide off-campus activities from their partners. This guide is for them.
1. Never write about sex with your co-conspirator.
One of the first big flapping red flags in the FBI's face was graphic talk about extramarital banging. "Ms. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus had set up private Gmail accounts," reports the Wall Street Journal, "which included explicit details of a sexual nature." Basically, email cyber sex. I can't wait to __________ your ________.
This is a smoking gun. If someone does somehow get access to your emails, they probably won't care, because they're probably boring. Unless you're talking about "explicit details of a sexual nature" using pseudonyms. If someone is already taking the violating leap into your emails, they're going to be looking for dirt. Searching for fun words like "sex." Stay boring.
2. Step away from the inbox.
It's unlikely that you're being investigated by the CIA, which means your inboxes probably aren't under any kind of scrutiny—but even so, you should treat your cheating dispatches with the same sensitivity.
Emails have a tendency to leak; they can be forwarded around, infinitely, to anyone, at any time, with virtually no effort. And the entire conversation chain goes along with it. A text message, on the other hand, is virtually impossible to preserve and forward on short of taking a screenshot—which means someone has either stolen your phone, or your adultery pal is selling you out. In which case you've got major problems that can't be solved through technology. And your life is about to be ruined. The same goes for Gchat, which is dumped into the same giant, permanent, easily-copied archive that your emails end up in.
It's also very easy to delete texts. Which you should. Because...
3. You should delete everything.
Your history, your messages, your call log—never keep any trace of your antics any longer than you need to. Browse in incognito/private mode, and never use a software email client that will download and store your messages on a hard drive—just one more place to leave fingerprints. But above all, delete the incriminating stuff:
Meet me at the Depressing Hotel at noon.
You might be tempted to hold on to these illicit messages out of some sentimental value, but shut up, you're having an affair. There's nothing sentimental about this.
4. Get a special email account.
This should go without saying, but you need a secret email account if you're going to have an affair. Both of you do. And not Gmail, which everyone uses; that's the first place someone will look on your computer, and carries a high chance of you forgetting to log out. Instead, try an alternative, high-security service like Hushmail, which heavily encrypts all of your emails.
If you really want to be safe, use both Hushmail and a disposable account like 10 Minute Mail, which self-destructs—erasing all outbox evidence. Once your paramour gets the message, he/she can delete it on that end, too. Nothing to find.
5. Speak in code.
The fewer references you can make to your actual life, the better. This should've been a no-brainer for our nation's top spy, but a good place to start is by employing all spy movie clichés: no names, no references to real places, no references to real things.
6. DON'T EVER SEND PICTURES OF YOURSELF
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This never, never, ever turns out well. You're probably going to get caught eventually—don't let part of the fallout involved sad, poorly-lit cellphone pics of your cheating genitalia.
7. Don't send harrassing emails to someone you think might also be having an affair with the person you're having an affair with because that person might complain to the FBI who will in turn get a warrant to monitor your email account and then you're embroiled in a national security scandal, dumbass.
Hey, it's possible.