Hello everyone! I am 16 years old and I am in high school. This college year I would like to maintain my privacy, but I need to know how I can do so without becoming too paranoid or even suspicious to the high school authorities. A couple of days ago, I implemented the use of a cap and a mask in my institute to, according to me, “be more anonymous” (which is not very helpful, because even so, I can be identified through my behavior and friends). And why do I want to be anonymous to the institute’s surveillance system? Because I’m a little afraid that the recordings from the security cameras could be used for unwanted purposes, and I don’t know how they handle the personal information of the student body either. In other words, I have a little distrust of my institute because some strange events have happened in it and the institute staff is disastrous. So, with that being said: How can I maintain my privacy and anonymity at my institute? It should be noted that the use of a cap is prohibited in my institute, although there are also certain inconsistencies in the institute’s regulations, because there have been cases of discrimination and “favoritism” where the regulations apply only to those they want. But after all, these days have been sunny days, so that has served as “justification” to use it and so has my friend.
Also, I am enrolled in a free government course that I take at the institute on computer science and unfortunately we are forced to use proprietary software, such as Windows and Google. In addition, the course system is based on Microsoft, so all the students of this subject have to use their platform to make homework, teaching materials, etc.
I’ve thought about using the school computers, so I don’t have to use mine and so I don’t “expose my computer” so to speak, but at the same time I don’t want to use them because I don’t trust those computers.
So, what can I do to receive this course while preserving my privacy?
Any questions or comments, you can let me know and I will be reading them with pleasure. Thanks so much for reading. ^^
I am also currently a student studying a similar area of study, the best advice I can give is to use a separate school device that has all the invasive stuff on it then you can have your personal activities and files onto a different device.
- Refurbished ThinkPads
- Ex-company used laptops
- Contact school for a loaner laptop for the duration of your studies
You are trying to earn a certification / degree so I don’t think that if your school is monitoring anything that you are doing on that device it will be a cause for concern because you are just completing course work.
I don’t think you can have any anonymity when studying at a educational institution, they need to know who you are so that they can give you your certification / degree.
- Setup a professional email address that you use for work / school / professional uses (firstnamelastname.com)
- Don’t provide a phone number to them (this will vary by school/college/university) or setup a secondary phone number that you use for professional situations
- Setup 2FA on all your school accounts (hardware key or TOTP preferred)
- Don’t give your school/college/university your real address unless necessary (sometimes can be avoided) provide a PO Box if you can
- Avoid graduation day if possible (usually these events are recorded live and posted to stuff like Facebook/YouTube, this might be important to you if you don’t want your face permanently on the internet)
Institutions usually have regulations that state they have to hold onto information for a long time for regulatory / auditing reasons so be careful with what info you provide.
Seperate and isolate your personal and studying activities to seperate devices, use alias information when you can and don’t provide information unless it’s strictly necessary.
Have fun and happy learning
Sorry, but I can afford another computer… Can I use something like a VM on Linux?
You can try dual booting Linux and Windows, make sure to elect to use full disk encryption on your Linux install during installation. Ideally each install on different drives as I have seen instances where Windows overwrites the Linux boot partition.
You could also try contacting your institution and telling them that you need a rental / loan computer for completing your studies.
Yeah, but the problem is that I already use dual-booting for Window$ and Fedora Linux, and my hard drive is only 120GB, so what I have planed is to install VirtualBox in my Fedora installation and make a Windows VM to use it only for my studies. So, do you think that making a VM is OK?
Sadly, I cannot do that on my institute…
I don’t think the performance will be fast enough to get your studies completed quickly, you might have to spend the money on a seperate hard drive / ssd. You could use one of those external SSDs if you laptop doesn’t support multiple internal SSDs.
I have a similar situation to yours my friend so what i can recommend for your help is to also use different browsers for all your school activities
Well, I will try to use a VM, and if it doesn’t work I will use dual-boot. I used VMs before on my PC and they run fairly nice. I don’t need too much performance for this course. But, if the VM doesn’t work, I will use dual-boot.
But what happens is that I want a separate environment for studies, that isolate all my personal things.
Leaning into what others have said, I think you’re main strategy will have to be compartmentalization. Yes, your school will make you use software you’re not comfortable with, but you can make it so that all they know is that you are student who attends the school and works on their homework. You can limit the information you’re providing through their system.
Besides that, I would consider what your threat model is and whether you have to go this far. I do agree in not passing along more information than you need to, but some details like your name or how you present yourself in public is normally fine. You may not need to go as far as covering your face to still have a reasonable separation between who you are at school and who you are at home.
If it were me, I would go to school like everyone else, dressing typically, and engaging like normal. The only caveat I would have is that I won’t log into any personal accounts on school computers or accounts. Those things are separate.
This sounds very reasonable! I will take into account what you said. Thanks for your contribution!
I agree with the comments above that there is no point trying to physically hide in a school, as you a registered there as a student.
It sounds like you are quite worried about the school’s level of surveillance, so if that is the case, you might need to prioritise your finances on this and work or save for a second hand laptop (50 - 100 USD) for personal use. Your best bet is a physical second hand store. You could still do regular activities, like gaming, etc. on the main school laptop, but then do all personal communication, searches, notes, etc. on your second private laptop. And like people already wrote, keep accounts for school and personal as separate as possible.
If that is not possible, then save up for a second hand SSD and run a separate OS from that.
Or ask around among family and friends if anyone has an old unused laptop and install a Linux distro on it, again, just for emails, web activity, etc… Or you could remove the drive from the old laptop and run a light Linux distro on that (if HDD).
If you have a smartphone, then you already own two devices, and you could begin to separate school and personal life that way.
I have not tried this myself, but you could also use a Linux distro that can run from a USB stick, and boot from it. People use Tails in this way, I think. That might be the cheapest option.
Threat modeling for me varies based off my activities at the time. Not a student but as an employee my employer has access points where I must badge in under surveillance. Even with work uniforms, several other identifiable features would allow you to identify me easy. My vehicles are somewhat unique.
I wear various caps common in my area and allowed but do to the fact it is not a uniform it is noticed. I wore a solid black hat and sunglasses and a guy commented I looked like I worked for the FBI. It is best to blend and wear a common hat. Not into sports but everyone else is good wear the favorite teams hat. The company knows what I look like so I look the part.
My home is my sanctuary and I would like to protect that. My employer does not know my home address. My kids use a different address in the same school district. My health insurance and medical records are related to the address my employer has. My tax documents go to a that address. My credit reports, employee verification all use that address. Could you use a near by relatives address for school? Is this a concern.
I have an alias at work and if someone uses my real name it absolutely adjust my threat level. My close coworkers do not recognize instantly my real name. It is actually common for us all to use nicknames. My coworkers get one phone number and I change that number annually. A simple new phone is a good excuse.
I embrace who I am at work and I compartmentalize who I really am.
I use primarily a phone at work for personal work. I use work computers with Tails and PortableApps with LibreOffice offline when I need a desktop.
My answers are all over the place and I suggest breaking down your concerns to manageable issues within your control. We all have suggestions and experience here.
For what it’s worth, your question partly inspired this article I wrote this week:
I mention your question but keep it anonymous. For keeping costs down, I highly recommend learning these things.
If you want to continue using the school’s device, you can use https://titaniumnetwork.org services as a web proxy. Mirror urls are found at the discord server though if you need them.
I would actually recommend booting off an external SSD (you could use a thumb drive, but it will be extremely slow and is more prone to corruption) This makes it extremely easy to switch between OS’s and separates them fully, while fixing your storage issues.
There are plenty of external SSDs, especially if your laptop has type C. However, I would make sure the boot drive for the main laptop is not accessible by the external SSD OS or is encrypted.
I used a VM on my main PC and for the networking stuff use a random ProtonVPN server in my host machine and redirect all the connections through the VPN server. That’s how I finished my course by the way. xD
But this info can help me for the next year.
So I don’t know if this technique is OK.
- get rid of the cap and mask everyone knows it’s you lol (mask still probably useful depending on the COVID situation where you live)
- don’t install microsoft spyware on your machines, use a VM or lab PCs if you can
- use an entirely separate digital identity for your school
- use your school microsoft account where possible if you have one for school stuff
- create a separate one for uni applications and don’t share it with your school
- don’t give your school too much info about your whereabouts after school
- if your school is degenerate enough to have whatsapp groups then use a separate number just for school
tl;dr: separate your personal and school identities as much as possible
Yeah, I already did that. I looked pretty ridiculous by the way.
I used a designated VM for school stuff. So I guess I’m okay with that.
That sounds important! I have two phone numbers by the way, but how can I install two WhatsApp instances on my phone? Because also I’m forced to use it for personal stuff (sadly, but no one cares about Signal )
But actually having a different phone number for that stuff sounds important to me.
if you are on android you can create a work profile with shelter or a second user profile and install whatsapp there a second time.