What is a VPN kill switch — and why you should use one

What is a VPN kill switch — and why you should use one
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Over the past few years, VPNs have become hugely popular around the world for their ability to protect us online. But VPNs often come with additional features that can increase this level of protection further. One such feature, known as a kill switch, can ensure that your online data is always kept safe. But what exactly is a kill switch, and does your provider offer one? 

A VPN works by connecting you to a remote server, which then encrypts and masks your online traffic and IP address. However, like any kind of technology, VPNs can run into operational errors, one of the most common being connection issues.

There are a number of reasons why your VPN could randomly disconnect. For example, your chosen server can be highly congested with high user numbers, or your internet service provider could be blocking all VPN traffic. You might also experience issues with your Wi-Fi network or data provider. 

Additionally, your VPN provider simply may not be very good, meaning your connection with the remote server could be subpar and therefore more prone to errors. If you don’t want to encounter this issue, check out our list of best VPN services.

Regardless of the reason for your VPN’s connection issues, there’s a definitive reason why you should be concerned about it. 

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When your VPN provider disconnects from your chosen remote server, you’re not always notified. Sometimes you can go hours or days without the protection of your VPN simply because you haven’t checked to ensure it’s still connected. This is easily done but can affect your level of privacy and security online. 

This is because the second your VPN disconnects from the remote server, your data is no longer being encrypted. This effectively takes you back to square one, wherein your private information is totally exposed to your internet service provider and other third parties.

While your VPN may only very rarely disconnect, this still poses an issue for your sensitive data. But a kill switch can keep you protected even in the event of a connection error. 

If the kill switch feature is active on your VPN app, your device will be automatically disconnected from the internet whenever the VPN’s connection to the remote server is terminated. This means that you won’t catch yourself online without your VPN active, and will therefore never surf the web unprotected. But how does this feature work?

Firstly, a kill switch will always monitor your device’s connection to the remote server to determine whether your data is still being encrypted. As soon as a connection interruption is discovered, your connection to the internet will be immediately blocked. Then, once your connection to the remote server has been reestablished, the kill switch will deactivate and allow you to connect to the internet. 

Which VPN providers offer a kill switch? 

You can choose to activate or deactivate your VPN’s kill switch whenever necessary. And, while a kill switch isn’t offered by every VPN provider, many big players do have this handy feature, including… 

If your chosen VPN provider isn’t listed above, you can find out whether it offers a kill switch by checking the settings of your app or simply running a quick internet search. 

But if your VPN provider does offer a kill switch, how can you activate it? The process will likely differ depending on the kind of provider app you’re using, but we’ll use ExpressVPN as an example. 

Firstly, you’ll want to head to the Options section at the bottom of your app window. Then, click on the Settings bar, as shown below. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

After this, you’ll be met with a number of different options. Head to the “Network Protectionsection, and click on the bar named “Always block all non-VPN traffic.” This will allow you to activate the kill switch option.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Depending on the operating system you’re using, you may need to head to your device settings to block all non-VPN traffic, as advised in the screenshot below.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Once you’ve done this, your VPN kill switch is ready to go, and will monitor your connection at all times.

VPNs are great for security, but try to make the most of the features on offer

While using a VPN at its most basic level can heighten your level of online security, it’s always worth taking a look at the additional features offered by your provider so that you’re protecting your data as much as possible. So, if you want to avoid exploding your private information, consider using a kill switch to avoid any third parties from accessing it.