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I know the safest bet If I want to remain anonymous is having 2 separate computers, but I was curious if having 2 OS in different hard drives (both encrypted) but on same computer the same? Is the hardware linked?

Like if I were to use one OS to do sketchy stuff could that be linked to the other OS where I would normal stuff?

Then what is the difference if I have an encrypted virtual machine instead?

I'm more curious about the why of each answer.

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  • What's your threat model?
    – vidarlo
    Dec 25, 2023 at 21:36

2 Answers 2

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They can be linked, but it's statistically insignificant.

First, two different OS running not at the same time are as separated as two different systems. If you have two different identities (normal and safe, for instance), as long as you never access the normal accounts using the safe OS or vice versa, it's almost impossible to link both.

To do so, an attacker must first compromise one of them, run code on it to get hardware information (MAC address, HDD serial numbers, things like that), and them compromise the other and check if they are the same. If an attacker suspects that both accounts (normal and safe) belong to the same person, you are already compromised.

The linked hardware isn't the weakest link on this scheme, operational security is the weakest link. Even if you have two different computers, stored in two different countries, but you access one account with the computer meant to access the other, you could end up compromising both identities.

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  • Hardware like the MAC address would be shared. If the location is the same and the MAC address is the same, the IP address likely will also be the same over a short period of time. This would be easily traceable, but the same would be true of two computers at the same location to only a sightly lesser degree.
    – user10489
    Dec 26, 2023 at 0:51
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    One using both identities without a VPN is asking to be identified... Op Sec is the issue here, not the hardware.
    – ThoriumBR
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:15
  • Yes, ofc that would be while using a Vpn, so both instances would always have a different IP at any time.
    – Elias LP
    Dec 26, 2023 at 4:28
  • @user10489 If I understand correctly, from what thorium wrote, Mac addresses can only be leaked if the attacker manages to run a script or program in the system. Assuming my network has not been compromised either how would they get my Mac address? I'm genuinely curious and still a bit new to the subject
    – Elias LP
    Dec 26, 2023 at 4:33
  • Actually, MAC address is visible to your entire local network. So then the question is, are there any leaks out of your local network, including your IP and port connections through your (NAT?) firewall.... and the firewall's own IP is guaranteed to leak out, and if you don't have a firewall, then yours will certainly leak out.
    – user10489
    Dec 26, 2023 at 8:18
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It is most likely that you cannot run two non virtualised operating systems at the same time on one computer.

If you run operating system A it can access all of the computer. The hard drive containing B can be detected; it may be encrypted so it cannot be mounted successfully and read or written to. It is likely that A can format B’s hard drive.

The question would be whether any information is stored on the computer outside the hard drives, for example some encrypted key storage. Depending on the implementation that might be accessible by both OSes. And you want it implemented in a way that A cannot accidentally overwrite information of B.

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