Your School Is Tracking Your Online Activity — Learn How to Protect Yourself
Did you know that your school can track everything that you do on the Internet, as long as you are connected to their network? Not only is this possible, but it’s also very probable that it is happening. While you are on campus, of course you need and use the Internet that they have provided for you. However, they didn’t tell you about the possibility that all of your online activity might be stored by your school, did they? The mere sound of it makes people feel exposed and vulnerable. Even if you are not a privacy-freak, the thought of someone having access to something that should be private is truly disturbing.
There are many ways and alternatives if your school wants to monitor you. But no matter if you are in high school, college, or your campus, chances are that the school administrator already knows who you are and everything you did online. If not, it’s extremely easy to find out. They usually use trackers or scanners that can log your attendance, or software that alerts administrators when you are accessing content that you shouldn’t be. It’s common practice to have some level of monitoring and filtering in order to prevent students from conducting unauthorized activities, such as P2P traffic. As a matter of fact, many rental agreements explicitly state this.
How Do They Monitor Your Activity?
After all, you are using the school’s network, which means you are also using their routers, servers, and firewalls. Even with your own laptop, they can still track your activity. Additionally, there are so many tools that were specifically made for this purpose. This is nothing new, because these products have been around for a little less than two decades. Besides, signing up to a campus network is similar to signing up for an Internet Service Provider. They track your bandwidth usage, and probably the websites you visited. Their job is to monitor and filter information, the same as an ISP.
Basically, they know what you are doing, but unless you are using the Internet for something illegal or against school policies, you will not get into trouble.
With all this being said, your school can track you in the following situations:
- When you are connected to the campus Wi-Fi from any device. This way they can see which websites you are visiting and what you do on them as long as they are not secured (this means HTTP websites). HTTPS websites have a layer of security that does not allow anyone to see what your activity is on a certain website, only that fact that you accessed it.
- If your college or high school hosts its own email system they can also look into your emails and keep a track of that.
- They will know whether you are accessing P2P traffic, and can block torrents.
Apart from your activity over the Internet, the school can also track your movement on and off campus. This can easily be done through your WI-FI connected mobile phone. This way the administrators know which room you are currently in, or how long you’ve been off campus.
Can You Prevent This from Happening?
The answer is yes, you can. There are a few basic rules that you need to follow, and maybe consider putting a small portion of your lunch money aside.
First of all, you need to make sure that you are only accessing HTTPS websites. Luckily for you, there are certain browser add-ons that can implement the HTTPS everywhere, making you a little more protected. Another advice would be to make sure that you separate your private and school activity. Use one email provider for your school activities, and another personal one for everything else.
Always, without exception, read through your school agreements carefully. You can’t protect yourself if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. And of course, some schools will have stricter policies, while others not as much. But usually, they put many clauses that secure them from lawsuits or provide them the rights to do these things that are usually frowned upon and not allowed in the outside world.
The last thing is to find a good VPN that will encrypt your traffic and assign you a new IP address. As a student, the financial struggles are more than difficult, so spending money on something unless it’s extremely important is a big NO. Therefore, we managed to compile a list that will help you out in finding something within your budget.
The Best VPNs for Students
Free Virtual Private Networks might come in handy, but they are definitely not a preferred option. They have a bad reputation for selling your information to third parties, which is exactly what you want to avoid. However, with such a vast competition on the market, you can find huge discounts on almost every VPN provider at all times. Combining the most important things that a college student will need, including security, anonymity, fast connections, and great streaming capabilities, here’s a list of affordable providers that are an excellent choice for students all over the world.
Windscribe is one of the few cheap providers that will actually keep you protected on the Internet. If you don’t want to pay for their unlimited subscription, you can also use the free plan. It does have certain limitations, but compared to other free VPNs, this is a great alternative for students on a budget. You will get 10GB per month and 11 servers to choose from, for as long as you like.
This is a trustworthy provider, and highly respected among its users. Unfortunately, Ivacy does not have a free plan, but they do have an amazing offer for people on a tight budget. You can get their long-term subscription, which will last you for your entire studies and maybe more. Ivacy offers a subscription that costs a little more than a dollar per month, with their 5-year plan. You pay in advance, but for the next five years you will stay entirely protected and anonymous on every device you own, no matter where you are.
Unlike Windscribe, ProtonVPN offers a free plan without monthly data limitations. That’s excellent indeed, but they lack other features. For example, you are limited to only one device, so you need to choose wisely. Besides, you get only three locations and lower speeds. Moreover, P2P connections are not allowed on their free plan. If you are not satisfied with this subscription, you can always go for the other price plans that are not as expensive compared to similar providers.