Using a VPN is really great, right? You can unblock content, bypass firewalls, and prevent online surveillance. Well, until your connection suddenly drops, you and your data are at the mercy of cybercriminals, government watchdogs, and profit-hungry advertisers who can’t wait to monetize your personal information and browsing habits.
After all, VPN disconnections can happen for a number of reasons:
- You are using UDP instead of TCP, which is more unstable.
- Your WiFi signal is too weak and causes data loss, which inevitably breaks your VPN connection.
- The VPN client has internal errors that cause your connection to the server to go down.
- Your antivirus, anti-malware, and / or firewall are interfering with your VPN connection, causing it to crash.
- The VPN server has crashed or the network port you are using to connect to the server is having problems.
So making sure you are using a VPN service that has a Kill Switch is extremely important if you value your privacy.
What is a VPN Kill Switch and how does it work?
This is a feature offered by some VPN providers that automatically stops your internet traffic if your connection to the VPN server goes down.
While it might sound a bit extreme, a VPN Kill Switch is quite useful. With it, you don’t have to worry about having your IP address and online traffic exposed for even a second if you lose your VPN connection.
When it comes to how a kill switch works, it’s best to think about how firewalls work – they block unauthorized connections.
Basically, a VPN Kill Switch will always monitor your VPN connection once the service routes your traffic through the VPN tunnel. If the Kill Switch notices a problem with your VPN connectivity, it immediately blocks all internet traffic that goes through your real IP address.
You will only be able to regain your internet access when the VPN connection is working properly or when you close the VPN client.
System level kill switches and application level kill switches
Some vendors refer to VPN Kill Switches as either “system level” or “application level”. It can get a little confusing, so it’s best to learn what the difference is.
Don’t worry, it’s pretty straightforward.
For starters, a system-level kill switch is your standard VPN kill switch. It stops your web traffic until the VPN connection is operational again.
On the flip side, an app-level kill switch lets you choose which programs won’t be able to connect to the web if your VPN connection goes down (like a torrent client).
Overall, a system level kill switch is much easier to use than an application level. You don’t need to constantly monitor exceptions and new programs. Additionally, a system-level shutdown switch will not accidentally prevent software updating to newer versions, which can be annoying.
Do VPN kill switches automatically activate?
To be honest, it would be quite annoying (and scary) if your internet connection suddenly dropped when your connection to the VPN server went down without you knowing it first. You might even think it’s because your router or ISP is having technical issues.
Instead, you normally have to enable the VPNKill Switch manually in the client. This is pretty straightforward as VPN providers usually just add a simple Kill Switch option that you need to check to activate.
Who is a VPN Kill Switch for?
Well, pretty much anyone who doesn’t want their personal data leaking onto the web whenever they have a connectivity issue with the VPN server.
But all the same, let’s take a look at a few more specific scenarios:
People who download torrents
Not all countries are indifferent to the torrent. In many places, downloading the “wrong” files can result in a huge fine or even put you in jail.
This is why many people use VPNs to hide their traffic and the torrents they download.
Of course, if the VPN connection goes down, your ISP can easily see what you are doing. And they can pass this information on to copyright agencies or authorities, or even terminate your service.
And if you are traveling, a VPN disconnection while torrenting may result in the hotel’s WiFi network being rejected.
People who don’t like Nosy advertisers
If you really value your privacy, you are probably using VPNs to prevent your ISP from selling your browsing data for a profit .
Well, if your VPN connection goes down even for a minute, your ISP will get an overview of your online habits. If this happens multiple times, they can collect enough data that they can sell to advertisers.
So you can say hello to spooky targeted ads if you are not using a VPN Kill Switch.
Journalists and whistleblowers
In such situations, 100% confidentiality is essential. A single VPN disconnect can cost you your job, your freedom, or even your life if the wrong people find out that you are about to leak sensitive information. Not to mention that it would also endanger your contacts by disclosing their identity.
People who analyze business competitors
The last thing you want to do when checking out your competitors’ websites is your VPN connection down.
Why? Because your competition could see your real IP address, track it, and start stealing ideas (products, features, keywords, marketing copy, etc.) from your own website.
“Good – but which VPN providers offer kill switches?”
There aren’t many VPN providers that offer this feature, but – luckily – there are a few that have done a great job of integrating kill switches into their service.
IPVanish is one such provider, for example. Not only do they provide access to a very user-friendly system-level kill switch, but they also offer other incredible benefits, such as:
- High speed + unlimited bandwidth
- A no-logging policy
- Over 1000 servers to choose from
- Access to five VPN protocols (including OpenVPN and IKEv2)
- Military-grade encryption