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I do a distance education program in Australia. My distance ed school sends out laptops to all students on loan until they leave school/the program. The laptop is specifically a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11e (5th Gen) if that makes a difference. My worry is that one of the head teachers had informed us they can tell if you install games and such on the laptops, which makes me think about what they could see on there. Is this just 'scaring' the kids into not installing stuff they shouldn't have or could this be real. I have reset Windows twice, so all files were removed.

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  • Note that when being given the laptop, you likely agreed to a policy that allowed them to track the laptop. Also, keep in mind that it is not your laptop, as you don't hold ownership over it. You are lent the laptop under certain conditions for a certain period of time.
    – user163495
    Jul 27, 2020 at 9:03
  • Ok thank you guys for your help. I did go through and read all the agreements I signed and there is a clause that says they can hand it over to law enforcement and they can give all of my details to them, but other than that there is nothing other than that apart from pretty much be safe online and don't view or send pornographic content. Also, just for clarity, no I'm not breaking the law on a laptop given to me by school. That is pretty dumb. Jul 30, 2020 at 1:37

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Yes, that's completely possible - however, it depends on what is your understanding of "tracking". There's an entire sector of security products generally called Mobile Device Management and created for the task of remotely managing devices. What the software does exactly varies from vendor to vendor but normally the software preserves the user's privacy while allowing the organization that deployed it to keep control of the machine.

Generally, they might be able to know your location, the name of the Wi-Fi network you're connected to, installed programs and applications and other general information but they shouldn't be able to peek into your conversations for example (even though they could prevent you from accessing social media).

Generally, however, I wouldn't use the computer for personal business or entertainment which is also advisable in your case.

Edit: As @MechMK1 mentioned above, the device isn't in your ownership so reinstalling the OS is most likely against the terms and conditions of the university, the actual owner of the laptop. They'll be able to see that there is something wrong with the computer which they might contact you about.

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    I wouldn't assume they can't peek into his conversations - not sure what the rules are in Australia but many companies install their own root certificates, enabling them to bypass the encryption that would normally protect his conversations. Pretty extreme measures but not unheard of. (see news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11873212 )
    – mcgyver5
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:08
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I work in an enterprise and have access to reports that show me every program installed on any laptop we manage. So, yes it is real. Whether your school has such management tools in place is the question. I would assume they do if I were you.

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Beyond software installed, it is quite possible they can track OP's every movement if they wanted. Traffic may be routed through a VPN and heavily monitored as a matter of course. This seems quite possible/likely (though I am not familar with Australian law, which may restrict what they "should" be doing). They probably have remote control software installed for support, which could monitor what is seen and done (e.g., typed). Do they monitor every move as a matter of course? Unlikely. Could they? Yes, easily.

If OP is (or were) concerned with hiding traces of illegal activity, it is rather certain law enforcement would have the cooperation of the school and full access to any and all possible monitoring tools already installed and which could be installed remotely.

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