A VPN makes a home or business network private. It provides your computers, tablets and smartphones a secure, encrypted connection to shared and public networks. It gives access to anonymous browsing, secure use of torrent clients, the sharing of corporate resources, and access to geo-restricted content; as well as many other positives. But what happens if your VPN has issues and disconnects? When the penny finally drops, and you realise you’re not connected anymore, it could already be too late. The ‘Kill Switch’ is a feature many of the best providers offer to protect you from that.
The kill switch is an important component to cyber security for both corporations and individuals around the world. Should a failure occur with your VPN, it immediately ‘kills’ your connection to the internet – preventing a default connection to the public IP. This safeguards its user from exposing their devices’ connection online, and maintains privacy.
‘99.9% uptime guaranteed’ is usually offered by the mainstays but, the reality is, your VPN can always fail. Firewall and router settings often miscommunicate with those of your VPN. And if your provider doesn’t own many servers, shares them, or own any at all, then you’re likely to experience drops in connection; and potential bandwidth throttling. Which providers to look out for is something we’ll go into later but, it’s important to choose the one that offers the type of kill switch you need.
Types of Kill Switch
System-Level Kill Switch:
The system level kill switch is the most basic form. In the event of a VPN connection disruption, all access to the internet is then terminated until connection to the VPN is restored. No packets can be sent or received, and no application can access the internet; retaining full anonymity. This would be most commonly used by individuals concerned with privacy, and those who regularly use bit clients.
Application-Level Kill Switch:
Unlike the basic option, this variety allows its user the chance to take full control. Instead of ‘killing’ every application, it enables you to select which applications can continue running should the connection to the VPN drop. While most people tend to disconnect the most popular applications, like web browsers, torrent clients and email; for many, the fundamental reasons to access the internet; keeping access to those is ideal for some. It allows remote employees, for example, to continue interacting with colleagues and clients, as well as maintain entry to company materials.
What Type of Users Benefit From Enabling Kill Switches?
All types of users – accessing all kinds of devices – should be using a VPN with the kill switch feature. But below are just a few examples of the types of people who should already have a kill switch enabled.
Employees Working Remotely:
Many corporations employ internationally based workers. Using a VPN safeguards access to shared company drives from anywhere, which is essential to maintaining productivity. Should the connection drop, your company’s most intimate information is at risk of exposure. As mentioned earlier, application-level kill switches are an ideal choice for remote employees.
Torrent Client Users:
Not all VPNs protect P2P sharing, but the best do. Using torrent clients is mostly illegal, and while some countries come down harder on users than others, a VPN is essential to anyone uploading or downloading copyrighted material. Uploading content while exposed will likely see you receive a DMCA notice – in some cases, the first step to legal proceedings. Being caught downloading can lead to hefty fines. Even a few moments of exposure can be enough to give the authorities everything they need to know about you.
Anyone concerned with their online personal privacy and protection is probably already using one. A common misconception amongst everyday people, however, is that all hackers focus on large corporations. That their online presence is too unimportant to make them a target. While this is true in some cases, casual users are a big target too. Information, stolen from unsuspecting victims; including personal banking details and private corporate resources; is often stolen and sold on the dark web where, in many cases, it’s then used against them.
Khurram Ali Mirza, Systems Analyst at global data and measurement firm, Nielsen, says he wouldn’t choose a VPN that doesn’t offer it. ‘We employee a lot of remote workers, and have a vast database of information; compiled over decades; housed in our Queensbury and EMY offices. So the use of VPNs is crucial. It allows us to stay connected with those offices and keeps our data secure.’
‘Without a kill switch feature, though, if for whatever reason the external network is unlocked, our employees, their data and our company data is immediately exposed. I’d highly recommend anyone accessing public and shared networks to make use of the tool. It’s simple, but highly resourceful’.
Which Reliable VPN Providers offer the Feature?
Below is a list of just some of the best providers offering a kill switch feature with their VPN.
- IPVanish – A firm favourite for multiple reasons. Rapid network, doesn’t log user activity, and is one of the few VPN services offering the kill switch to Mac users.
- Hide.me – Hide.me also doesn’t log user activity on its network, and even explains how you’d be protected in the event of receiving a DMCA notice.
- PIA – PIA was one of the original VPN services to provide the kill switch feature, and to both Mac and Windows users. It also offers DNS leak protection.
- Proxy.sh – A popular choice for its low prices; their most basic package is available for just $2 a month. It offers reliable anonymity, along with a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a fairly unique transparency report for all legal requests received.
- ExpressVPN – Known on ExpressVPN as the ‘Network Lock’, this kill switch is available on both Mac and Windows, and comes enabled on the VPN by default. It also offers some of the most powerful connections around, with servers in almost 100 countries.
If you don’t use a VPN – or even understand what they do – hopefully this article has provided clarity on their worth to your online safety. When choosing a provider, choose one with a kill switch feature. It only takes seconds to reveal your location to hackers or the authorities, and the outcome can be destructive – in a business, financial and personal sense.